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Blossman continues tradition of focusing on employees

Ocean Springs — The Blossman Gas Company philosophy of being more than just a place to work for its employees has never been truer than it is now. Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the company’s board of directors purchased 10 three-bedroom, two-bath mobile homes for employees left homeless.

President and CEO Stuart Weidie said, “Many things are going well for people now in spite of the adversity. Before mission statements were popular, Blossman Gas founder Woodrow Blossman said he started the company to benefit employees and that philosophy has continued.”

A team was assembled to locate land, facilitate permits and arrange hook-ups for gas, power and water for the mobile units. “Within four weeks, we had the mobile homes up and running,” said Christie Fountain, director of marketing and advertising. “Employees in other parts of the country also rallied and sent truckloads of supplies, food and money. Home office personnel in Ocean Springs boxed and delivered these things to employees and families in the impacted areas.”

Employee Karen Zwerg says she is thankful for the mobile home she now shares with her husband and three daughters.

“When you see your CEO covered in sweat and mud installing a propane tank so you have a place to sleep at night, you know you are blessed to work for an incredible company like Blossman,” she said.

Nor have customers of the largest independent propane dealer in the U.S. been forgotten. Weidie announced deferred billing until January 2006 for those severely impacted by the hurricane.

The privately owned company was founded in Gulfport in 1951. At that time, Woodrow Blossman wrote, “Blossman Gas exists for the benefit of its employees, and the company depends on the employees rendering superior service to its customer. In dealing with employees and customers, one must always keep in mind that every individual is a human being and should be treated with compassion.”

Weidie says Woodrow Blossman’s son John Blossman followed his dad’s philosophy in that regard during his tenure as president from 1972 until 2000. John Blossman now serves chairman of the board and his stepson, Weidie, carries on the founding tradition.

“We have no intention of selling the company and do not want to go public,” he says. “We want to provide a good place to work and grow for our employees. If they’re happy, they’ll provide good customer service. Not everyone will be happy, but we provide an environment where they have the opportunity to be happy.”

This company mission leads to employee longevity. Two employees have 42 years of service and several others are in the 30-year range. Also, the employees own about 30% of the company through a policy that was set up as a retirement program.

“We have a lot of long term, loyal employees,” Weidie said. “It’s due to a combination of our environment, the fact that we’re growing and we reward people when they perform well.”

He says that if Blossman Gas became a public company the mission would change, making the company focus on short-term financial results to make investors happy rather than employee focused.

“The people of this company and its mission are what make it special,” the president said. “I want to emphasize that.”

At first there were two stores located in Gulfport and Ocean Springs. Now there are 78 Blossman locations and 660 employees. The growth has been steady, opening two or three new stores each year, and most of it has occurred in northern Georgia, Virginia and North and South Carolina. Six to 15 employees staff a typical store.

Weidie, who’s been with the company for 15 years, would like to see that steady growth continue with expansion into the Mid-Atlantic States although he doesn’t envision going nationwide. “There are about eight more states where we want to expand,” he said. “There is tremendous opportunity for growth through our stores and with products that are exciting to people. That will include expansion into regional markets and new products that will use propane.”

One of those new products developed by the Blossman people is a propane burning lawnmower that will be much more efficient and clean burning. Weidie says one gasoline-burning mower pollutes as much as 43 automobiles.

“The certifications are being done for this product and we hope it will be available in one year,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to grow and help the environment.”

Providing propane gas is the primary business of Blossman Gas Company. They set the underground tanks for homes that have gas appliances mostly in areas where there is no natural gas available. Then they hook up gas burning appliances. The rising popularity of gas logs and fireplaces has propelled the use of propane into many areas.

The other side of the business focuses on appliance sales with Blossman carrying a full line of white goods. Weidie says new models coming out are more fuel efficient and provide plenty of opportunity to meet the needs of the public in these days of rising energy costs.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.


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