Eliminator Sales & Service

May 1, 2008 By    

As a propane retailer, Kevin Sparks was frustrated with not getting tanks where he needed them.

Then last September, he drew up a plan of a machine that would help eliminate this challenge. The prototype was ready in November, and the Eliminator hit the market in March of this year.

“I have a mechanic’s background, and I have the ability to go into the shop and make something if I think it will work,” says Sparks, 38, who owns Sparks Propane Inc. and Eliminator Sales & Service Inc. in Webster Springs, W.Va. “I have employees who can do the same thing.”

Simplifying the process

The Eliminator, a motorized tank handling system, is designed to save the propane retailer time and money compared to a boom truck. It eliminates the need for multiple employees on a tank-setting job, to bury a line or for routine maintenance. Everything is accomplished in one process, with one operator. The Eliminator is strong enough to lift a full 1,000-gallon tank or carry a full 500-gallon tank to the side, in front or behind the machine.

Sparks’ offices are located at a newly constructed facility on four acres in Webster Springs. The Eliminator is manufactured at Columbus Industries in Fairview, Ill. – Sparks owns half of the company – while attachments and other customer preferences are added in West Virginia. Depending on these options, the machine costs $25,000.

Sparks has deals in the works. He plans to sell about 800 machines this year, 300 to Australia. He’s targeting 800 to 1,000 sales annually over the next couple of years, with 2,500 as his five-year goal.

Mechanic’s background

None of this would have been possible without Sparks’ experiences on the retail side. He broke into the industry as a mechanic for several different local businesses and saw them transition from heating oil to propane.

Now, Sparks Propane delivers an average of 850,000 gallons per year with three bobtails and sells its 1,600 customers on reliable service.

“If it’s 2 a.m., I’m there,” Sparks says. “This being a small-town area, everybody knows my employees. If they can’t contact me, they’ll call my employees at home. A lot of times, my guys work on Saturday, and I wouldn’t even know it.”

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