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The History and the Stories of Blossman Founders in a four-part series. Part III
The 1990’s began on a sad note with the loss of Blossman Gas founder and Chairman E.W. (Woody) Blossman on February 26, 1990. His son, John Blossman, assumed the duties of Chairman and appointed Bob Mayer as President, David Reynolds as Chief Financial Officer, and Jessie Johnson as Vice President of Operations.
Heading into the new millennium, the Blossman Gas family included 77 branches with over 76 million gallons in sales – ranking Blossman number 11 in size in the U.S., and the largest independent, family-owned propane company in the country.
High Expansion Mode
Growth in the Greenville, SC grass-roots branch achieved significant success encouraging the company to continue expansion in the Carolinas. The company jumped over into the fast growing mountain areas of western North Carolina and established a second hub in Asheville in 1990.
In 1991, with the company committed to capitalizing on the potential in the Carolinas, Tennessee, and eventually Virginia, current CEO and President Stuart Weidie, also John Blossman’s stepson, joined the company. John Blossman envisioned that Stuart Weidie would learn the industry and eventually lead growth into the expansion areas.
Additional branches in Anderson and Walhalla, SC spun-off from Greenville, SC; and from Asheville, additional branches in Sylva and Burnsville, NC opened. In the same year, the company moved east into North Carolina, opening another location in Greensboro. The company’s first branch in Tennessee opened when the northern portion of the Lafayette, GA branch became the Cleveland, TN branch; and within two years another branch in Elizabethton, TN opened. With this flurry of growth activity happening in the northern areas of the company’s footprint, Blossman management was still on the lookout for expansion opportunities in the southern part of the U.S. A new branch was added in central Mississippi with the acquisition of Weir Butane in Newton, MS, and growth in the Pensacola market resulted in another new branch in Milton, FL.
In 1996, leadership pinpointed the company’s growth potential toward the northern half of Alabama and Georgia, the western half of North Carolina, and the eastern section of Tennessee.
In 1999, the State of Georgia deregulated its natural gas industry. The largest natural gas utility in the state, Atlanta Gas Light (AGL), elected to divest in their retail business and retain only its pipeline and distribution infrastructure. Many new companies formed to compete for the former AGL customers. Blossman Gas recognized the potential of one such company – Peachtree Natural Gas with 70,000 customers – and purchased a large interest in the company. Peachtree’s customer base grew to 140,000 quickly, but major infrastructure problems resulted in an inability to bill customers properly. Blossman Gas took on unbilled receivables and the rights to the customer base, which was then sold to Shell Oil. This situation gave Blossman a new set of challenges to overcome as an investor company.
Mr. Al Allen set up a collections operation in Ocean Springs, MS, and successfully collected about 80% of the accounts. With a strong austerity program in place and a cold winter season, the company regained strong footing by the year 2000.
Thus, Blossman Gas ended the 20th century, defined by perseverance and resiliency over the previous half-century. With President Bob Mayer’s “final” retirement in the summer of 2001, the Board named Stuart Weidie President, and much like John Blossman in his early years, Weidie led a full scale analysis of opportunities for future growth, and created the vision for the new decade ahead.
Updated June 2018