The Linden’s Propane legacy

February 29, 2016 By    
The Linden’s Propane/Energy Distribution Partners team at Linden’s Propane headquarters on the day of LP Gas’ visit includes, from left, Frank Edwards Jr., Terri Seabold, Sid Wise, Cheryl Good, Mike Sommers, Jackie Markley and Mark Zimora.

The Linden’s Propane/Energy Distribution Partners team at Linden’s Propane headquarters on the day of LP Gas’ visit includes, from left, Frank Edwards Jr., Terri Seabold, Sid Wise, Cheryl Good, Mike Sommers, Jackie Markley and Mark Zimora.

Linden’s Propane started in 1958 out of one man’s backyard in LaGrange, Ohio, a rural community in the north central part of the state. Philip Linden founded the business by first delivering 100-pound cylinders.

Sid Wise, a longtime employee of Linden’s Propane and the company’s current operations manager, says Linden ran a friendly business that was known by many in the community.

Yet the company has faced a sea of changes in the past few years. Linden died in 2010 at age 75 while driving a tanker truck. His wife, Holly, took the reins of the business for two years. She then sold it to Energy Distribution Partners (EDP) in 2012, with the retailer retaining its original name.

“Family-owned businesses have their own personality, rhythms and perspectives,” says Mark Zimora, EDP’s director of U.S. operations. “Linden’s has enormous value. It’s a name known in the area. Our business model tries its best to respect [acquired companies’] individual components.”

With changes, longtime employees expressed some uneasiness about being purchased by a larger company. They didn’t want Linden’s Propane to lose its personality within the northern Ohio community. Employees also expressed concern over whether they would lose their jobs with the acquisition.

“Phil Linden always let me grow in the company, so I was scared to death when [EDP] came in,” Wise says. “You fear the unknown.”

Three years later, Wise says there wasn’t any reason to fear the acquisition. As EDP came into Linden’s Propane, it sought to preserve the retailer’s legacy in the community.

Wise describes EDP as a group of straightforward and honest people.

“EDP has done a wonderful job that I never would have pictured three years ago when they bought the business from Holly,” he says. “What they said they would do, they did. That’s what they stuck to.”

Season of change

Linden’s Propane has seen a boom of new business this past year, gaining about 225 new customers since moving its headquarters about 10 miles southwest – from LaGrange to Wellington, Ohio – last August.

Frank Edwards Jr., general manager of Linden’s Propane, attributes some of that success to community-relations events after the move. He says hundreds of community members lined up to visit the propane retailer at its Customer Appreciation Day in September. Edwards kept busy throughout that event, cooking burgers and hot dogs for community members. He says Linden’s Propane filled about 2,000-gallons worth of grill tanks at the event for a low cost.

“We knew people were going to come to our Customer Appreciation Day, but we didn’t think that many would come,” he says.

Attending local fairs also helped boost customer levels. The company now has about 7,000 customers, which is up a couple hundred since EDP acquired the company.

That growth also sparked the need for a larger facility. The LaGrange facility occupied the back portion of Linden’s home, which measured less than 1,000 square feet. Wise says the company moved to a 13,000-square-foot plant in Wellington to accommodate growth from the acquisition.

Since the acquisition and move, Linden’s Propane has made a couple of other changes to the business. The company integrated a fleet routing system from Vertrax last April. The transition to the system was challenging and it took training, but not even a year later the company has experienced fuel savings, Edwards says.
The company also invested in back-office software to help with operations management, so it no longer uses index cards to file information.

“There have been a lot of changes the past three years,” Edwards says. “Moving to future technologies has been rough, but we did it. We’re starting to see the fruits of change.”

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