Change is in the air at Odell and Josha Smiths’ Local Warming, in operation since 2009. The business has been sold, effective June 2, to Delta and Gunnison-based JC Propane, owned by sisters Sharon Perry and Sherry Cobb.
According to Cobb, JC Propane was established in 1998 when her father, Jerry Cobb, started up in the Delta area with “one truck and one load of gas, offering personable and excellent service,” she said.
Cobb built his business, becoming well-known in the Uncompahgre Valley area for his support of local youth programs, 4-H, agriculture, livestock, rodeo events, local fairs and various other activities for area youth. Sherry Cobb began working for her father in 1999, and after his death in 2016, sister Sharon went to work for the company as well.
“Now that we have purchased the established and independent propane distribution company Local Warming, we want to let everyone know that we are carrying on our dad’s traditions with the same great service that he offered.”
JC Propane delivers propane to a large service area including Gunnison, Crested Butte, Sargents, Pitkin, Ohio City, Montrose, Ouray, Ridgway, Telluride, Norwood, Nucla, Gateway, Whitewater, Delta, Cedaredge, Hotchkiss, Paonia, Somerset, Crawford, “and everywhere in between,” Cobb relates.
The company retains 16 full-time year-round employees in Delta, Gunnison and now Lake City, and will retain Doug Tucker, Rachel Moore and Erick Lozano. According to Cobb, the company distributes approximately 2-million gallons of propane per year.
Their propane distribution trucks are decorated with two messages that are important to the sisters: breast cancer awareness and support of military troops.
“We lost our mother, Betty Greger, to breast cancer,” Perry said. “It is rampant in our family. So
we of course support breast cancer awareness and
prevention in every way we can. As far as support of
the troops, we personally know many people with family overseas. We would not be able to do what we do without the troops and their contribution to our freedoms. We should all remember how fortunate we are to live in the country we do.”
Cobb notes there will be 24/7 on-call emergency service, by dialing the local office number, 944-1018. She also reminds customers that it’s time to sign up for new contracts, and to call the Lake City office at 970-944-1018 for more information, or visit the website at www.jcpropane.com.
Odell and Josha Smith moved to Lake City from Texas in 2006. Since moving here they acquired the historic J.J. Abbott house overlooking Bluff Street as their family residence, and, most notably, founded Lake City’s first locally-owned propane company, Local Warming, LLC, in 2009.
Starting from scratch with no customers, Local Warming has now grown to service approximately 400 customers primarily located in and around the Town of Lake City and upper and lower Lake Fork, with a smattering of customers also at Powderhorn in Gunnison County.
In 2016, Local Warming dispensed a cumulative total of 330,000 gallons of propane. In addition to Odell and Josha, the company has four employees, including office manager Rachel Moore who joined Local Warming in 2013. Other Local Warming employees are Gunnison resident Doug Tucker, “Odell’s right-hand-man,” who assists with delivery, and Erick Lozano, well known from his work at Lake City Post Office, who works with Local Warming checking propane tanks.
Jeff Worthen has been associated with Local Warming since its founding. His role as stand-by for propane delivery is termed “crucial,” according to the Smiths.
Although Worthen is now “off the hook,” Josha Smith says the three other Local Warming employees — Moore, Tucker and Lozano — will continue with the firm under the new owners.
Since moving to Lake City, Josha Smith has homeschooled the couple’s three children, each of whom completed their high school training here and is continuing onward with college classes.
Gracyn, 22 years old, is a pre-vet senior at Colorado State University; Kaegan, age 20, is an online student at University of Illinois majoring in Substantiality Science; and Braeden, 18, who completed his homeschool high school requirements this month, is enrolled in his first year as a Computer Science student at CSU.
Asked about their future plans after sale of Local Warming, Josha responds that they have no plans to relocate and will remain in Lake City. “Our biggest goal,” she says, “is not to have to work on propane on weekends, that’s out big plan.”
Josha and middle son Kaegan began the company “Keys 4 Autism” in 2016 which delivers academic protocol to families with children with autism. With approximately 40 clients to date, Josha and Kaegan frequently travel, providing academic support for families with non-speaking children with autism, and also host families here on what is termed an “Autism Adventure Vacation.”
Odell will continue his globe-trotting as computer consultant designing custom computer software to Fortune 500 companies. Most recently — and as of Wednesday this week — Odell was on an airplane returning from Germany where he had consulted on software issues for Georgia-based CharGrill.
According to Odell, the original goal in starting up Local Warming was “To allow me to be home with the family instead of being on the road with my consulting business, and to give the community a competitive option to the monopoly gas utility situation created when Amerigas bought All Star Gas in 2007.”
Smith recalls that it was an “enormous amount of work in the first couple of years thanks to the incredible response from our community. We are very blessed to have had the warm outpouring of support from the communities of Lake City and Hinsdale County as well as Blue Mesa and Powderhorn,” he said. “As happens with many small businesses, it is difficult to meet OPEX requirements and cash flow in a very price competitive market. This is especially difficult dealing with commodities where international events (Like Russia invading Crimea) increase the cost of goods significantly – thus reducing margins and making it difficult to continue operations.”
Odell says he can’t thank his good friend Jeff Worthen enough for his support the first couple of years. “He taught me many things,” Smith said. “Good plumbing technique: ‘a clean pipe is a happy pipe’, always hold the threads toward your body, then wrap the tape clockwise, always make sure when taking a fitting off of a tank valve that the fitting is what is turning, instead of the valve coming out of the tank. And most importantly — how to make your wife happy — take your ethyl-mercaptan smelly clothes off in the garage before coming inside – even when it’s -20 F.”