If there’s a need, figure out a way to fill it. This simple maxim is Suburban Propane’s story - the story of how a solution to one woman’s cooking problems grew into a multi-million dollar business.
In 1928, Mark and Adele Anton left Newark, N.J., to build a home in nearby West Orange. During the construction, Mrs. Anton discovered there were no gas lines near her new house in the country. She had learned to cook with gas, and the idea of using a kerosene or electric range simply didn’t appeal to her. But soon her problem was solved.
One day, while thumbing through trade journals, Mark Anton noticed an advertisement by a company named Rock Gas, which sold propane and the equipment for home installation. He placed the order that ultimately made Mrs. Anton Suburban’s first satisfied customer.
Mark Anton realized that others moving to the developing suburbs might enjoy having the same convenience, so he ordered more equipment from Rock Gas and installed several more systems in the neighborhood. The Suburban Gas Company was born.
From these modest beginnings, the company would expand to the New Jersey countryside, down the coast from Maine to Florida and eventually reach west to the Pacific.
When Philgas, owned by Phillips Petroleum, opened two local propane distribution plants in New Jersey, Mark Anton became a wholesale customer and as World War II ended, the propane industry prepared for a massive post-war expansion. At this point Phillips had refocused its energies on petrochemical opportunities and was ready to move out of the East.
The time was right. In 1945 the Suburban Propane Gas Corporation was formed, with Mark Anton as president. It purchased Phillips’ 13 eastern propane properties and all the assets of the Suburban Gas Company.
Mark Anton never strayed from his initial idea of finding a way to fill needs. Over the years his vision, and later that of his son, Mark J. Anton, would take Suburban Propane to new horizons.
With the 1971 purchase of Vangas, Inc., a large California-based propane marketer, Suburban completed its expansion to the Pacific. Maryland-based Pargas and Texgas Corporation of Texas, were acquired in 1985 and 1986, respectively.
On August 1, 2012, the Partnership successfully completed the acquisition of Inergy L.P.’s ("Inergy") retail propane operations. The acquisition effectively doubled the size of the Partnership’s customer base and expanded its geographic reach into eleven (11) new states including establishing a presence in portions of the Midwest region of the United States.
Today Suburban Propane is a lean, flexible company dedicated to creating value. A publicly traded Master Limited Partnership (NYSE:SPH) since 1996, Suburban serves approximately 1.2 million residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural customers through more than 675 locations in 41 states.
In conjunction with a year-long celebration of the propane industry’s 100th anniversary (2012), LP Gas Magazine has established a Propane Hall of Fame, and will honor its inaugural class of nine industry pioneers at a dinner and awards ceremony this April. The nine were chosen from a slate of 44 nominees.
Among the nine initial inductees is Mark Anton, who founded Suburban Propane in 1928, served as the company’s president until 1963, and then as chairman of the board until 1972, the year he passed away.
Mark Anton is remembered as “a man of initiative and perception, who gave untiringly of his energies to his community and country.”