Community-recognized ‘Parkin boys’ say service, honesty fuel growth

March 5, 2013 By    

Jim Parkin won’t try to will his 71-year-old body into attics and crawl spaces during house calls anymore. Fortunately, he’s got a young serviceman who’s spry enough and willing to do just that. 

But just because Parkin’s at an age when many people retire doesn’t mean he’s ready to walk away from Manito Oil & Propane, the business he established with his brother, John, 45 years ago.

“Most of the major retailers ask us what we’re going to do with the business, if they can buy us out,” Jim says. “As long as John and I are healthy, we love to get out and help people.”

“The Parkin boys,” as they’re belovedly called in Manito, Ill., and its surrounding communities, bought Manito Oil & Propane in 1968 from a man who launched the business 17 years earlier. John actually worked in the business for five years after high school, and he teamed with his brother to make the purchase after Jim graduated from college and left the Army.

Jim developed into a serviceman over the years, while John hauled the company’s petroleum products.

“This was a fairly small, independent business when we bought it,” John says. “We’ve increased the business tenfold.”

Like many small, independent marketers, the Parkins say exceptional service was the asset that led to that growth.

“We never knocked on doors,” John says. “We earned business through our service and being honest with people. Eventually, it just started growing.”

Jim agrees Manito Oil & Propane grew with integrity.

“We worked with customers to build a plan for them to pay their bills and work within a budget,” he says. “We have a lot of older customers. We would go in to fill their tank, and they maybe would have only a pot of chicken and noodles on the stove. But you didn’t leave without a check. Many of our customers went through the [Great] Depression, and they knew what hard times were.”

John remembers one particular customer who stuck with Manito Oil & Propane because of the integrity he and his brother exuded.

“One customer came along and asked about our price of gas,” John says. “Our propane was 15.5 cents [per gallon]. A competitor came around and said he could sell for 13.5 cents. I responded and told the customer, ‘How long are they going to guarantee the price?’ Our service was important to this guy, so he stuck with us.”

Today, John says about 60 percent of the business is propane, with petroleum products representing the other 40 percent. And both he and Jim plan to continue doing for the business what they’ve done for years.

“I don’t know if we’d know what to do if we retired,” John says. “We’re just going to keep going.”

TEAM: Pictured above, John Parkin, left, and his brother Jim lead the business.

LOCATION: Manito, Ill.



CUSTOMERS: 830 propane customers

PROPANE SALES: 700,000 annual gallons

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About the Author:

Kevin Yanik was a senior editor at LP Gas Magazine.

1 Comment on "Community-recognized ‘Parkin boys’ say service, honesty fuel growth"

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  1. Phyllis Hill says:

    We are the second generation in our family to use Manito Oil and Propane for our propane needs. My folks used them back in the 50’s. And they are as honest and dependable as they ever were.

    Mrs. Hill