Situated between Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and New Orleans is a once-dormant propane company that is being reinvigorated by two young engineers.
Vacherie Fuel started distributing propane in southern Louisiana during the 1930s, but after a statewide decline of propane during the 1990s, the company stopped operations after over half a century of service.
After recognizing new opportunities in the energy sector, Albert “Allie” Waguespack III, great-grandson of the company’s founder, Leonard Waguespack, decided to leave his nine-year career as a mechanical engineer and purchase the propane side of his family’s business in 2014.
Waguespack, who is currently president of the company, was joined by his colleague and fellow Louisiana State University engineering graduate, Sina Zarei. Their goal was to modernize the company and become Louisiana’s only local cylinder exchange supplier. Together, the two have developed Vacherie Fuel back into a premier propane distributor in southern Louisiana.
“I thought he was crazy,” Zarei says after hearing that Waguespack wanted to leave his job to take over Vacherie Fuel, “but it was more of a pride thing.”
Zarei, now executive vice president of Vacherie Fuel, was eventually convinced by Waguespack’s vision and decided to join the company in 2016.
“I wanted ownership in something down the road in my career,” Zarei says.
Once partnered together, the pair was faced with the question: What are you going to do to be different?
With a lack of local propane cylinder exchange options and also a strong support system of local businesses in southern Louisiana, Waguespack saw an answer to that question and a direction to point his new company.
Joining the cylinder exchange market was a change of pace from what Vacherie Fuel was originally founded on.
“We were founded as a bulk propane distributor with one bobtail and a few employees,” Zarei says. “It was all hands-on deck.”
Today, Vacherie Fuel’s core is still rooted in supplying bulk propane, but the recent success of the company can be credited to the exchange market, according to Zarei.
The company’s personal customer service, combined with Louisiana’s strong support of local businesses, has created a prosperous relationship. The sense of customer service comes from the company’s hands-on approach. Employees personally check exchange locations, repair and repaint cylinders, and make deliveries.
Due to the company’s growth, Vacherie Fuel has started to add automated systems, including an automated paint system, to its arsenal. Such additions are the first steps in a growth plan for the company moving forward.
Today, Vacherie Fuel owns over 130 exchange locations throughout southern Louisiana, with more expansion on the horizon.
Over the next five years, Vacherie Fuel hopes to build a state-of-the-art facility that will assist with the growing demand and expansion of the company.
As Vacherie Fuel grows, the company is still focused on its main goal of serving the community.
“We want to be a major player in Louisiana,” Zarei says.
Founder: Leonard Waguespack
Owners: Allie Waguespack and Sina Zarei
Propane sales: 800,000 annual gallons
Headquarters: Thibodaux, Louisiana