Wisconsin retailer’s path to growth includes assisting propane startups

June 6, 2013 By    

Larry Schmoll teamed with Jim and Joe Draeger in 1995 when he sought to start an independent propane marketing business. Thus, Draeger Propane was formed, today serving 10 northern Wisconsin counties from the cities of Antigo and Rhinelander.

The company has expanded toward Top 50 Propane Retailer territory over 18 years, while increasing its presence in the Rhinelander area after acquiring nearby Dahlquist Propane in October 2011. Draeger Propane’s sales exceeded 3.5 million gallons last year, and it sold 10 million wholesale gallons to boot.

But besides growing its own sales, Draeger has paved the way for others outside its sales territory to enter the propane delivery business.

“In the past we have helped entrepreneurs develop small startup propane companies from scratch,” says Josh Schmoll, Draeger’s location manager, who is also Larry’s son. “We have helped four or five along over the years. These companies didn’t have the resources or knowledge base at the time of induction. We wanted to help these individuals because we know how difficult it is to build a business and finance the assets needed to grow a business.

“We were not always able to help other retailers as much as we would have liked to at times, especially during our early years,” he adds. “I am proud to say that these companies today sell anywhere from 200,000 to 1 million gallons a year.”

Draeger Propane helps other marketers get started as an extension of its wholesale business. For building business can grow Draeger’s wholesale gallons.

Of course, not every marketer Draeger Propane has assisted over the years remains as a wholesale customer. But Draeger has maintained business with two retailers, and it has grown gallons for the industry through its efforts.

“The [two we still serve] both own gas stations and wanted to get into the propane fuel delivery business,” Josh says. “We have tried to assist them in every facet of the business, whether that be helping them build allocation or offering advice on fleet vehicles.”

In addition to helping others build their propane businesses, Draeger is focused on building its own business by exploring untapped opportunities – not taking gallons away from others.

“Instead of companies growing industry gallons to improve the overall health of our industry, these companies are trying to steal gallons from other retailers,” Josh says. “We see this quite often as one retailer has a grudge over another. Employees can see this and are taking advantage of the situation to negotiate a higher salary by grabbing a customer list on their way out. It’s hard to respect that sometimes.”

TEAM (pictured above): Among the Draeger Propane team members are, from left, Josh Schmoll, Bryan Zinda, Larry Schmoll, Chris Hansen, Joseph Draeger and Bertie Cmelak. Other team members are Darci Joslin, Matt Schlundt, Doug Hoerman and Allan Wagner.

LOCATION: Antigo and Rhinelander, Wis.

FOUNDED: 1995

EMPLOYEES: 10

PROPANE SALES: 3.6 million annual gallons

ONLINE: www.draegerpropane.com

Photo: Draeger Propane

 

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the senior editor of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at kyanik@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3724.

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