Burkardt’s LP Gas

August 28, 2012 By    

Founder’s farming background positioned new business well in year one

Centennial celebration
LP Gas Magazine is celebrating the propane industry centennial by honoring longtime retailers with our Blue Ribbon Gas Man award and enduring dealership businesses with our Retailing Honor Roll. Look back at our July 2012 issue for the complete list of these owner-operators, and read about some of them here in Snapshot. Burkardt’s LP Gas appears on our Retailing Honor Roll, and Bill Burkardt is on our Blue Ribbon Gas Man list.

A customer named “Mrs. King” called Bill Burkardt at Burkardt’s LP Gas one day and identified herself by name and address. Before the woman could continue with further detail, Burkardt jumped in with his own ready-made biography of “Mrs. King.”

Burkardt described the pine trees around her home and the 500-gallon tank on her property. He even noted that the woman’s tank was only 23 percent full, and that it was white in color.

“She kept laughing,” Burkardt says. “I asked, ‘What’s your reason for calling, Mrs. King?’” She said, ‘Oh nothing, you know everything already.’”

Having installed thousands of propane tanks in and around Polo, Ill., Burkardt knows such details on many of the 6,000 customers his company serves. Burkardt’s LP Gas, of course, did not start out with 6,000 customers overnight. It did, however, sell 750,000 gallons of propane in its first year in business 30 years ago.

Back then, Burkardt was primarily farming but also working for Thermal Gas seven months out of each year. As a farmer, he sold and planted corn for a number of farmers in the area. And he developed enough relationships in the area that his full-time transition into propane was a fairly smooth one.

“At the time, the bank told us no other company had sold more than about 400,000 gallons in one year,” Burkardt says. “I told them I would sell 500,000 or more, because the farmers I did custom work for knew I was hardworking and honest.”

Burkardt attributes his success over the years in part to guaranteeing customers a price. His wife, Beverly, says Burkardt’s LP Gas was the first propane retailer in its area to contract gas to farmers. The strategy worked well in just about every year except this past one, she says, because Illinois, like many states, experienced virtually no winter.

Guaranteeing prices didn’t always favor Burkardt’s LP Gas in the short term, Bill says, but issuing contracts to customers worked out well in the long run.

“At one time 15 years ago we didn’t buy enough gas,” Bill says. “We had guaranteed customers about 70 cents per gallon, and we ran out of our contract gas. So we were buying at 90 cents and selling at 70 cents. And we kept our customers because we never went back on our word.”

LOCATION: Polo, Ill.
PROPANE SALES: 10 million annual gallons
ONLINE: www.burkardtslpgas.com

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About the Author:

Kevin Yanik was a senior editor at LP Gas Magazine.

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