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Local pipeline tap gives Georgia retailer advantage over competitors

November 13, 2012 By    

Dan Holloway could not afford to wait for the railroad to deliver his next tanker on its regular schedule to the bulk plant at the nearby district in Albany, Ga. His customers desperately needed propane, so Holloway made the hour-long drive to Moultrie where he could potentially get a jump on that pickup.

When Holloway arrived in Moultrie, the yardmaster gave him some interesting advice.

“He said the best way to get your tanker is to take a fifth of whiskey and wave it in the middle of the track to the oncoming train,” says Holloway, the CEO who established Modern Gas Co. Inc. in 1954. “Of course, the train had to stop to find out what I wanted.”

Ultimately, Holloway’s fake drunken ploy many years ago worked, as the train backed up and cut the 10,000-gallon tanker loose.

“We depended on the railroad exclusively to get all of our product at one time,” says Steven Holloway, Dan’s son and the senior vice president at Modern Gas. “The railroads were cooperative about getting the gas to us, but sometimes they didn’t understand the urgency.”

Fortunately, Modern Gas no longer depends exclusively on the railroad to deliver it propane. The company has actually been in a unique position for many years, having a tap into Dixie Pipeline Co.’s Albany terminal. Modern Gas has a property adjacent to Dixie’s.

“We probably have the shortest propane delivery system in the country,” Dan says. “Dixie has told us we’re one of the few propane marketers with a tap directly into their pipeline. So we don’t have the transportation costs others do.”

Modern Gas hasn’t just focused on propane over the years. The Holloways launched an ancillary cylinder exchange business in 1990 that was recently sold to AmeriGas. Now, Modern Gas is in the hearth and log business, doing significant service work for both propane and natural gas customers.

“We look at the service department as its own center of costs and profit,” Steven says. “We have to keep our service crews busy year-round.”

One unusual product Modern Gas carries as a propane retailer is The Big Green Egg, a charcoal grill. Modern Gas has sold propane grills for many years, Steven says, but it has capitalized on an opportunity few others like it have considered going after.

“This grill uses a natural lump charcoal not sold at many other stores,” Steven says. “It brought repeat customers in over and over, kind of like how customers came in to get their [propane] bottles refilled.”

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About the Author:

Kevin Yanik was a senior editor at LP Gas Magazine.

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