Gant keeps his business local

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

Register/Bob Johnson
David Gant, who started with a handful of customers 15 years ago, has developed D & D Propane into a thriving business in Humboldt.

HUMBOLDT — A map of Allen, Neosho, Woodson and Wilson counties hangs on a wall near David Gant’s office at D & D Propane. In a very graphic way it tells the story of his success the past 15 years in the fuel and propane business.
“What’s right at the middle,” Gant asks. Without waiting for an answer, he says, “Humboldt.”
“See where the growth is,” he says, and with a sweep of his hand notes the multitude of rural residents south and east of Chanute and extending on to east of Humboldt.
“That’s where we sell propane,” Gant said. “We’re the local company. If we were in Chanute, we wouldn’t be local for Humboldt, same if we were in Iola. Since I was born and raised in Petrolia, graduated from high school in Chanute and ran around with a lot of kids in Wilson County, we’re ‘local’ a lot of places.”
Lucky, too. But this luck is more a product of preparation and hard work than happenstance.
“I don’t buy a lot of product ahead because of the volatility of prices, but when oil got down to $10,” an aberration of 10 years ago, “I bought 1.2 million gallons of propane when I was selling half a million gallons a year,” Gant noted. “Oil went up. So did the price of propane. That helped get me started.”
Today, D & D Propane is more that just a supplier of propane. The company has self-service service stations in Humboldt and Erie and in the last year Gant has purchased the northern division of Murphy Oil, Independence, which gave him Monarch Cement Company’s bulk fuel business. More recently he purchased a bulk fuel facility and truck from Tom and Bill McAdam in Moran.
Gant had expanded his propane business in 2001 when he purchased CLB Propane in Yates Center.
“We do a lot of business in the Piqua area and with a nearby site and another truck we are able to service customers there more efficiently (and economically) by not having to haul from Humboldt,” Gant said.
He also is considering other “ventures,” as he calls them. Gant keeps an eye on possible new retail outlets and is eager to increase the magnitude of his bulk fuel and propane territories.
This year D & D will sell about 1.5 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel and a million gallons of propane to rural customers who use it for household and farming purposes.
As investments, Gant has purchased three 80-acre farms and a fourth containing 330 acres. “Most of the ground is in CRP (Conservation Reserve Program), but I do farm about 100 acres and have 40 cows and three bulls.”
Gant is diligent in keeping what he does local — all eight employees are — and channels his successes as much as possible to benefit of Humboldt and area communities.
“My deal is that if you don’t have ideas to help out the little towns then they’re going to die, no matter how you slice it,” Gant said.

GANT MIGHT not have been where he is today except for consolidation announced by ARCO Pipe Line Co. in 1992.
He was working for the company in the Humboldt area as a union steward. Company officials gave him and others two years’ warning that their jobs would be eliminated.
“I had the opportunity to transfer to Dallas or Houston,” he said. “I took a look but really didn’t want to move.
“I heard that Beachner Grain wanted to sell its propane business in Humboldt, and I bought it,” Gant said. “At the start it was just me, seven rental tanks and 90 customers.”
Encouraged by the freedom of being his own boss, Gant worked to increase the business and in a year and a half he had a second truck and hired his first employee to serve 500 customers within 35 to 40 miles of Humboldt. Today he has 1,700 propane customers.
Gant thinks his attention to commodity trend lines and successes he has had with the stock market — “I’ve had some losses, too” — have been important to him having been able to expand his company and fare well in coping with prices that change as quickly as those of gasoline, diesel and propane. Gant knows as well as anyone they have a common denominator: the price of oil.
He fancies himself as an entrepreneur who has succeeded.
“If you can make it selling gasoline, diesel and propane, with the margins we have —10 cents a gallon is considered excellent — then you can make it anywhere,” Gant said.