LP Gas

Family plumbing company builds propane business despite recession

The Geswell family started Pilgrim Propane with only two customers. Today, it has 900 customers.

It took confidence and a can-do-it mentality to launch a business around the time of the Great Recession in 2008.

Edward Geswell Jr., father, and Edward Geswell III, son, decided to launch a propane business in 2009. The father and son already ran E.J. Geswell Plumbing & Heating, but they wanted to add propane to their list of services after noticing a need for it in their Massachusetts community.

Geswell Jr. says he and his son had some experience working in the propane industry prior to launching their plumbing business, which boosted their confidence in the idea.

“We both believed we could really do this,” Geswell III says. “We knew we had success on the plumbing side. If we could translate that to propane, we knew it would work.”

Despite some financing difficulties, the Geswells started Pilgrim Propane by investing in themselves and with help from family and friends.

“A lot of people told me we were crazy,” Geswell Jr. says. “I told them, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? I’ll fail.’ But we managed to move forward.”

Pilgrim Propane started with only two customers. Most of the business they did their first year in propane related to fireplaces. Flash forward five years, the company expanded its services and now has 900 customers.

Geswell III says the company went through an interesting transformation. The business started out of the Geswell home, then moved to an office and most recently moved to a bigger office.

Although the company’s main focus today is propane, the seven-member team still juggles jobs between plumbing, propane and sometimes HVAC work in the summer season. Geswell Jr. says he makes sure all of his team members are capable of working in any of the three fields, if needed.

“The New England Patriots’ coach tends to have his players on different positions,” Geswell Jr. says. “I like to do that, too, in a sense. I make sure my guys know plumbing, propane and more to create a stronger team.”

While Pilgrim Propane has no bulk propane storage tanks, Geswell III says it has a ritual of refueling bobtails at the beginning or end of the workday. This routine might change soon, though, as the company plans to add bulk storage tanks to its headquarters within the next year or two.

Even though the family business has experienced exponential growth the past five years, Geswell Jr. hopes to keep the business local. He has received compliments from customers, explaining that they like when they have direct access to the owners of the business.

Geswell Jr. believes staying local is what builds loyal customers.

“We’re looking to be a solid local company,” he says.

FOUNDED: 2009

FOUNDERS: Edward Geswell Jr., Edward Geswell III

HEADQUARTERS: Norwell, Mass.

EMPLOYEES: 7

PROPANE SALES: 200,000 annual gallons

ONLINE: www.pilgrimpropane.com