Island natives stress local ties, give customers another choice

February 1, 2009 By    

A lawyer and house mover, neither with a background in propane, are bringing competition back to Nantucket – and they’re doing so as the underdog.

Jamie Ranney and Philip Marks III grew up on Nantucket, an island 30 miles south of Cape Cod, Mass. With Liberty Propane acquiring the only two local propane companies, in 2005 and 2007, schoolmates Ranney and Marks launched Nantucket Energy last fall to give islanders another choice.

They spent about four months writing their business plan and talking to people in the industry, and they have utilized their local connections. They installed 120,000 gallons of underground storage on land Marks leases through Atlantic Aeolus, his house-moving company.

Nantucket Energy gets its propane from Gas Supply Resources in Providence, R.I. It is tankered to Hyannis, Mass., and delivered to the island by freight boat. The propane is transported to Nantucket Energy’s storage facility with its own 10,000-gallon truck. Delivery to customers is made with two bobtails.

Nantucket Energy hopes to sell 1 million gallons annually within two years, which would give it 20 percent of the market. It had 300 customers in eight weeks of operation (of about 6,000 total accounts on the island).

“It’s certainly a challenge, but it’s been fun,” Ranney, 40, says of their business venture. “We paint ourselves as the underdog because that’s what we are.”

In addition to stressing its local ties and competitive pricing, Nantucket Energy markets convenience and efficient operation – by utilizing the newest technology – so customers won’t run out of propane.

“We came into this business from the consumer standpoint,” Ranney says. “We’re very keen on issues that are of primary concern to consumers – tank monitoring, billing and online access to accounts.

“We make it convenient for the customer to access their account information,” he adds. “Our Web site is designed to allow customers to monitor their own tank usage. We provide the customer with service – physical service on their property and efficient [service] for accounting purposes. We’re way ahead of the curve.”

Nantucket is a unique place to sell propane. Ranney says 80 percent of homeowners don’t reside there year-round, but many leave their heat on during the winter. There’s also a lot of summer usage of propane, including for swimming pools and cooking.

Location: Nantucket, Mass.

Founded: 2008

Employees: 3 (also gets help with delivery through Marks’ house-moving company and temporarily subcontracts with local companies on service issues)

Specialty: Sells propane with a local flavor. Owners Ranney and Marks went to school together, know many of the residents and have knowledge of tank locations. They utilize the latest technology to ensure that the customer will have propane.


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About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at or 216-706-3748.

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