FARMINGTON — After 42 years in the propane business, Jake Cluff has learned one important lesson that structures how he and his business partner, Kent Misemer, run Arrowhead Propane.
"Propane's the same if you buy it from me or anyone else," Cluff said.
So when Cluff and Misemer opened Arrowhead Propane in Farmington they decided to focus on three things: safety, customer service and competitive prices.
"Every one of my cards has my cell phone number on it," Cluff said.
He said when people call about propane, they want to get it at a convenient time and in a convenient way. That's one advantage Arrowhead Propane has as a locally owned company, Cluff said.
"We can be more responsive to their needs as a small company," he said.
In Farmington, Cluff and Misemer said flexibility is crucial. Customers are able to spread out payments and can pay using cash, check or credit. The drivers have apps on their cellphones that allow them to scan credit cards for payment.
"I like the fact that it's an important part of the community," Cluff said.
He said propane is especially important in rural areas. Like his customers, Cluff, who lives outside of Turley, depends on propane.
Cluff started working in the industry when his father, who ran a propane company, hired him. Since then, he has worked for propane companies of various sizes and has served on several national propane boards. In 2002, he moved to Farmington and began working at propane companies in the area.
He and Misemer met while working together more than 20 years ago. For years, they discussed opening a propane business together.
"We saw an opportunity to develop a company that would meet the needs of our customers," Misemer said.
Cluff said that certain aspects of his previous job for a Farmington branch of a larger propane company made him unhappy and he wanted a change.
For the past year, he and Misemer have been working on starting their company. This involved buying equipment, such as tanks and trucks, and constructing the building, which located at 3 Road 5859, along U.S. Highway 64 southeast of Browning Parkway.
In June, Arrowhead Propane sold its first propane. Since then, the company has grown to more than 200 customers and eight employees.
Most of the customers are residential, new construction and mobile homes. The company has more than 250 tanks in stock and 60,000 gallons of propane in storage at the property.
As they got close to opening, Cluff and Misemer went door-to-door, knocking and leaving fliers.
"We're getting a tremendous response just from word of mouth," Misemer said.
Also helpful in attracting customers has been the 30,000-gallon tank with the company's name, phone number and logo, which is clearly visible along U.S. Highway 64.
"I couldn't be happier with what's happened with us so far," Cluff said.
Cluff and Misemer have also educated some customers. For instance, some people have a misconception that they can't switch service providers. Cluff said anyone has the right to switch providers. When people do switch, Misemer said, it is almost always due to price or customer service.
Mesimer said in addition to having a competitive price and focusing on customer service, the company also focuses on safety.
He said the company is taking a potentially dangerous product into homes with families and children. Because of this, if the team discovers a safety problem, they won't leave until it's fixed.
"We've found people who had no idea they had a propane leak," Cluff said.
Misemer said that he and Cluff aim to build the best propane company they can and to get loyal customers and employees who want to work for them.
"We've been able to attract an incredible amount of talent," Cluff said.
Between Misemer, Cluff and their manager, Mike Helms, they have 118 years combined experience in propane.
"My wife makes fun of me," Cluff said. "She says I've been in the business of passing gas for 40 years."