Through a series of acquisitions in the 1960’s and 70’s, Blossman added branch locations throughout Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama. The federal government lifted energy controls in 1981 (Regan-era) and Blossman Gas took a leadership role in the propane industry in the Southeast. Blossman ranked in the top 10 propane companies in the US, and the largest independent (family-owned) propane business in the US. John Blossman, Woody’s son, stood at the helm of Blossman during these years of exciting and rapid growth.
John Richard Blossman graduated from Yale University in 1966 and Vanderbilt School of Law in 1969. Upon graduation from law school, he moved back to Ocean Springs, Mississippi and joined his father at Blossman Gas. Under his 40-year leadership, Blossman Gas grew from 14 branches selling 13 million gallons a year to more than 60 branches selling 70 million gallons. He continued to expand the company’s market area to stretch from Southeast Louisiana to the Mid Atlantic.
During these expansion years, John Blossman escalated the company’s commitment to providing excellent service by offering full tank and appliance installations, and by offering propane gas-related products for sale in the branch stores including gas fireplaces, grills, generators, water heaters, cooktops, gas dryers, and space heaters.
In the early 1980’s, the company recognized a need for better, quicker customer information systems and hired an Information Technology manager in 1985. Blossman Gas is recognized as the first multi-state propane marketer to have all of its locations connected with a real-time computerized information management system.
Along with market-leading customer service, independence remained at the heart of Blossman’s success, and continues as a valued part of company culture to this day. This autonomy allows Blossman leadership the agility to build a propane-based business while allocating substantial resources to market innovations, employee education and training, and cutting edge research and development.
Under the guidance of John Blossman, Blossman Gas was one of the first propane marketers to embrace the National Propane Gas Association’s Gas Appliance System Check (GAS Check™), a voluntary inspection program that provides safety inspection guidelines for technicians. In the 1980s, under the leadership of Safety and Training Director Don Singleton, the GAS Check training program at Blossman Gas was expanded and upgraded into what has become the best and most respected safety and training program in the propane industry. The company continues to lead the industry in safety practices and standards: requiring rigorous training and continued education for all Blossman technicians.
During the 1980s, the nation began exploring vehicle fuel alternatives as the gasoline supply seemed to be in jeopardy. Blossman Gas opened conversion shops in Ocean Springs, MS, Theodore, AL, and LaGrange, GA to enable vehicles to run on cleaner burning, economical propane.
Company expansion continued in the states mentioned previously and entered into the states of South Carolina (Greenville) and Florida.
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.
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.
With President Bob Mayer’s retirement in the summer of 2001, the Blossman Gas Board named Stuart Weidie President. Much like his stepfather, John Blossman in his early years, Weidie exhibited an uncanny ability to lead analysis of future growth opportunities, then create and execute an action plan for implementation.
To facilitate the continuing growth of the company, Blossman took steps to implement a long range plan to upgrade its infrastructure. In 2004 and 2005, the company installed handheld computers at all branch locations, and a task force started working on the first major upgrade of the company’s financial reporting and customer accounting software in twenty five years. By the end of the decade, with the help of virtually every employee, all of the company’s software systems were state-of-the art, giving Blossman the capability to serve twice the current customer base.
The company also reached its goal of moving into Virginia by starting four new branches in Virginia (Fredericksburg and Gordonsville, in 2003, Bedford and Staunton in 2005, and Berryville in 2006), and acquiring a fifth when it purchased Virginia Propane, in Bedford, Virginia.
In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, severely impacting thousands in in the US, including Blossman’s home office in Ocean Springs, MS, and 15 other southeastern branches, leaving employees homeless and shutting down the company’s computer network. Within hours of the disaster, employees from all over the company began descending on the Coast to help clean up the devastation. The volunteer effort led by Blossman employees enabled Blossman Gas to re-open, providing customers, government and non-profit relief agencies with propane and equipment services, such as propane-powered generators. Within days of the storm, Blossman purchased mobile homes and rented spaces in mobile home parks for its homeless employees – at no cost to their families.
In 2007, the Board named David Reynolds Chief Operating Officer. Industry veteran, Randy Doyle, also joined the company that year as Chief Financial Officer, undertaking responsibility for finances and implementation of the new information technology vision and infrastructure.
With a strong leadership team in place, Stuart Weidie began to look for new opportunities to again grow the business and level out the seasonal peaks and valleys of gas sales. He and the company officers brought many new ideas for increasing sales: appliances, lawnmowers, generators, tankless water heaters, autogas, and reticulated systems for housing developments, to name a few.
Alliance AutoGas, founded by Blossman Gas in 2009 to promote propane as a vehicle fuel (called autogas), experienced steady growth that continues through the present time. Alliance AutoGas is an international network providing a comprehensive propane autogas solution to medium and heavy-duty fleets; an industry leader in the sustainable alternative fuel market. Alliance AutoGas is comprised of more than 120 independent propane marketers and authorized conversion centers throughout North America. Alliance’s partners are aligned to provide propane and propane autogas for vehicle fleets and lawn care companies throughout North America. This group of partners is also engaged in offering EPA certified small engines systems through their small engines division, Alliance Small Engines.
On March 30, 2009, John Blossman passed away following a long, courageous battle with cancer, leaving the entire company in mourning for one of the “kindest men who ever lived”, as the Blossman family knew him. John Blossman defined the culture of the company that bore his name, and become one of the most respected leaders in the propane industry. Even as the members of his Blossman Gas family mourned him, his legacy and spirit inspired them to move forward with strength and purpose into the next decade, determined to lift Blossman Gas to new heights.
The second decade of the 21st century opened with Blossman Gas, Inc., emerging from the loss of its beloved Chairman, John Blossman, and continuing in a high growth period.
In the year 2010, the company acquired the propane operations of McCombs Oil Co., of Morganton, NC, and consolidated their customers into the Blossman branch in nearby Hickory, NC. Shortly thereafter, they acquired Leco Gas, Inc., of Canton, GA, and began consolidating its operations into the Blossman Cartersville, GA branch. These acquisitions were quickly followed by the purchase of Uneeda Gas, in Alexander City, AL which was folded into the Opelika, AL Blossman branch.
In 2012, Blossman expanded into the Miami, FL market with its acquisition of Green Tech Energy Solutions. Five acquisitions took place in one year (2014). They included Ankney Propane Plus in Ocala, FL; Palmetto Gas in Hilton Head area, SC; Lassetter Propane in Newnan, Ga; Blue Flame Gas in Douglasville, GA; Dade Gas in Lafayette, GA; and Dixie Gas in West Chesterfield, VA. In 2015, Blossman then expanded in Jacksonville, FL with the Southern Propane acquisition.
Two milestone events were seen in 2013 and 2014. Blossman Services, Inc. became the exclusive United States distributor of Westport’s Prins Autogas products, and in October of 2014, Alliance AutoGas and Blossman Services, Inc. opened their Alliance AutoGas Research & Development Center in Asheville, NC.
Blossman continued to play a large leadership role in the propane industry as Blossman President and CEO, Stuart Weidie became the Chairman of the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) in 2016. Randy Doyle, Blossman’s Chief Financial Officer, became a Council member of the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) in 2015, and David Reynolds, Blossman’s Chief Operating Officer, was named PERC’s Chairman of the Research and Technology Development Advisory Committee in 2016.
Now, as Blossman Gas, Inc. approaches 70 years of service, its 800+ employees and 150,000+ customers can look back with pride at the legacy of a company that has overcome numerous obstacles to reach the point where it is today – a family held company that is prospering in its third generation of family ownership, a company that continues to fulfill and surpass its founder’s dreams, and a company that truly exists for the benefit of its employees so that they may in turn give superior service to Blossman Gas customers.