A propane family finds a second life as local baristas

August 29, 2014 By    
Buster Brown Propane

The Peterson family of Buster Brown Propane.

The 300-square-foot building was a welcome space to jump-start a retail propane business. But steady growth over 40-plus years forced Houston-area Buster Brown Propane to continuously add onto its property in every possible direction.

After a while, Buster Brown simply ran out of room.

“We had engineers look at that building, and we had added onto it all that we could,” says Jan Peterson, who owns Buster Brown with her husband, Mark, and son, Matt.

With nowhere else to expand the business, the time to explore a new home for the company had come. The path to establishing Buster Brown’s new home in New Caney, Texas, took an unexpected turn, though, during a family vacation in North Carolina.

“We went into this coffee shop, and my daughter-in-law’s (Tayra Peterson) eyes started spinning,” Jan says. “She started formulating ideas about coffee shops and getting one started.”

The coffee shop idea was one the entire Peterson family embraced, and the family incorporated the new business into its plans for the propane company’s next home. Ultimately, the Petersons opened an entire shopping center that includes both Buster Brown Propane and their family-owned coffee shop, Buster’s Brew, which opened in February. The coffee shop also operates as a deli, selling sandwiches, paninis and tea.

“We wanted to create a new ambiance for the community where they could come and be close to their roots,” Matt says. “The coffee shop has a real homey, country feel. I think that has been a draw.”

The propane company and the coffee shop aren’t the only businesses occupying the Petersons’ new building. A restaurant, Fish Tales, occupies one space. A barbershop and hair salon that opened in late June occupies another.

“There are 1,000-gallon [propane] tanks here that operate the strip,” Jan says. “That was strategically planned. We do have a natural gas main right here beside us, but we cut it off.”

Operating the shopping complex and having tenants is a new business dynamic for the Petersons, but they’re excited about the new direction and the opportunity to cross-market their businesses.

“We do 700-plus [propane] invoices every month,” Matt says. “We put stuffers in envelopes advertising Buster’s Brew. Our first mailing on that will go out [in July].”

The coffee shop has been beneficial for the propane business as well, Matt adds.

“People come into the coffee shop and ask, ‘Are you associated with Buster Brown Propane?’ Either they’re already a customer or they say, ‘I’m going to start using you guys [as my propane retailer],’” Matt says.

Buster Brown Propane is the propane provider for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Click here to find out how it handles this business.

COMPANY: Buster Brown Propane

LOCATION: New Caney, Texas

FOUNDED: 1972

EMPLOYEES: 18

PROPANE SALES: 2 million annual gallons

ONLINE: www.busterbrownpropane.com

Photo: Buster Brown Propane

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the senior editor of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at kyanik@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3724.

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