The Story of Caywood Propane Gas

Our grandfather might marvel at auto-fill deliveries supported by tank monitors instead of 3 x 5 index cards and degree days published in a newspaper. But he would not be surprised, because he would expect us to be better.

Our parents would be thrilled with our industry-leading low run-out rates, but they would expect nothing less.

Self-reflection, balance and perspective, true self-confidence and genuine humility are leadership principles discussed in board rooms and published in business books. They also are the values our family taught us. Being better is not a goal. It's a journey.

What drives our mindset? It starts with family:

In the beginning

Our grandfather Richard Varner looks dapper in this 1930's era photo. The picture is taken around the same time his brother Robert converts an old Pittsford, Michigan blacksmith shop into a gas station. Grandpa and grandma join Richard in 1940 and take over the business in 1947. They also add home heating fuel to the product portfolio.

We don't remember much about the operation, but we do remember the almost limitless supply of peanuts, candy bars and soda pop that seemed to be available when we visited grandpa without mom or grandma around to keep an eye on us (including grandpa!)


Home Heating

Home heating is an important part of the business during the 1950s, but apparently not enough to build a bulk supply plant and tanks. In this picture Richard Varner fills a bulk delivery truck from a retail service pump. A slow and tedious process.

Route planning is pretty simple in those days. Auto-fill customers are tracked using 3x5 filing cards and customer usage is based mostly on a calendar system. Today we plan routes with sophisticated software, tank monitors and computer tablets on the delivery trucks.

Family and business expansion

Many of Richard and Dorothy's children follow them into retail gas station business. Three of our aunts and their spouses wind up with retail gasoline station businesses and offer basic repair and tire service.

Our parents decide to follow the family tradition. In this picture from early 1960, Jim and Dolores Caywood might be planning the grand opening of Hudson Gas & Tire.

On the other hand, maybe they are trying to figure out what life will be like later that year after Chris Caywood, one of the current co-owners and president of Caywood Propane, is born.


Learning the ropes

Hudson Gas & Tire is a core part of our family's business during the 1960s and 1970s. It also serves as a customer service classroom for Chris and Mike Caywood, Caywood Propane's current co-owners, and their brother Mitch.

We run, not walk, from the building to the customer's car. Purchases for more than $2.00 get you an oil check, tire check, clean windshields and clean windows. Even after the advent of self-service in the 1970s some customers, including Bill Thompson, the long-time president of his own family business, Thompson Savings Bank, still expect us to fill his tank for him. We do.

Diversification and growth

Jim and Dolores add propane, home heating oil, convenience stores and transport supply to their business porfolio in the 1980s.

This early 1980s propane delivery truck (called a "bobtail") is much smaller than the trucks we use today. Our bobtails now have digital meters and tablets that are in constant contact with our customer software and tank monitors that are on all of our compnay-owned tanks. These features help us keeps costs down and pass the savings on to you.

The transport delivery truck from the 1990s was used to supply gas stations with their motor fuel needs.

Family Football 1980s with caption
Mike and Chris Caywood

Transition and focus

Family-owned businesses are a lot of work, but work is the last thing on our minds in this late 1980s photo. Knee, achille's heel, hand injuries and other middle-aged ailments ultimately caught up with us, but the most painful was the loss of our dad in 1997.

Pictured left to right are Jim Caywood, Mike Caywood (co-owner), Chris Caywood (co-owner) and Mitch Caywood.

The business transition to the third generation comes with new energy and focus. Since 1997 we have added propane tank leasing and maintenance, exited the home heating and transport distribution business, and tripled our delivery area with the addition of our Albion and Coldwater Plants to complement our Hudson Plant.

Our 21st century customer service also includes features not offered by most retailers. Our website and smartphone apps enable customers to check their tank levels, order and pay for propane, look up their account history and much more.

Now, more than ever, Caywood Propane Gas Inc. meets customer needs:

Reliable. Transparent. Value-Priced. Since 1939.


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