Georgia retailer sprouts from nursery business

June 29, 2017 By    

Pike Propane features an all-female staff, pictured above. From left: Marjorie Harrison, Stephanie Richardson and Beth Kemp. Photo courtesy of Pike Propane

Pike Propane tends to surprise new customers on its first delivery to an account.

“It’s amazing the reactions we get when customers see a lady getting out of the truck to deliver their propane,” says Marjorie Harrison, owner of Pike Propane. “It’s sort of cool, I think.”

Pike Propane serves as an all-female retailer in central Georgia, with Harrison as the owner and her daughter, Beth Kemp, as a driver. Harrison also hired a part-time employee, Stephanie Richardson, to help as a driver and with other jobs around the office. All three women perform service work, she adds.

Harrison started Pike Propane with the help of her late husband, Wayne, in the late 1990s. At the time, the two owned her parents’ nursery, but the nursery was struggling to stay open due to competition from big-box stores like Wal-Mart. Harrison knew she needed to find a new way to make ends meet.

While working at the nursery one afternoon, Harrison noticed several bobtails driving along the road near the nursery. After some research, she learned that the bobtails had come from companies outside Pike County, Georgia.

“None of those bobtails were from our county,” Harrison says. “This seemed like an answer to us. We were also using propane to heat our nursery, so we were familiar with it. We decided we would get into the propane business.”

Harrison and Wayne launched Pike Propane in 1998 to fill a void in the county as a local retailer. The couple operated Pike Propane at the nursery location, managing both of the businesses until 2000 when they opted to close the nursery to focus on growing the propane business.

Transitioning to the propane industry proved to be challenging, but it provided the Harrisons with more business than what they experienced with the nursery. The couple concentrated on connecting with the community, and after a few years the news about Pike Propane spread naturally.

“The community definitely wanted someone local to serve them, but it took a while for them to be comfortable with us,” Harrison says. “I knew this from experience, as I had always used the same propane company to heat our nursery. When you’re comfortable, why change? But we proved to the community that we were here to stay as Pike Propane.”

When Wayne died in 2014, Harrison contacted Kemp to see if she would help with the family business. To Harrison’s delight, her daughter agreed without hesitation to help as a driver. She also hired Richardson around the same time as a part-time employee.

Harrison hopes to keep Pike Propane as an all-female company. While customers might be surprised that the company features an all-female staff, they often warm up to the fact, Harrison says. In addition, Pike Propane is in the process of receiving national certification as an all-female business from the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.

Founded: 1998
Founders: Marjorie and Wayne Harrison
Owner: Marjorie Harrison
Headquarters: Concord, Georgia
Propane sales: 355,751 annual gallons
Employees: 2.5
Customers: 500
Bobtails: 2

This is posted in Current Issue, Featured

About the Author:

Megan Smalley was an associate editor at LP Gas magazine.

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