At the Central Park location where folks once watched movies at the Harbor Drive-in (from 1948 to 1997) — and more recently shopped for mobile homes — they can now find a family-owned business dedicated to serving those who use propane.
Bret Sukert and Shar Garten, husband-and-wife owners of Propane Etc. at the corner of Highway 12 and Karjala Road, moved to the Harbor specifically to establish their business.
The former longtime Port Townsend residents arrived on the Harbor in 2005. Propane Etc., which serves both residential and commercial customers, opened for business Jan. 9, 2006.
Sukert and Garten — and Propane Etc. — are The Vidette’s randomly chosen subscribers for February. They subscribe to the newspaper, Sukert said, because they believe it’s important to support locally owned businesses.
“I just think being a local business, you should support local business,” he said.
What is ‘Etc.’?
Sukert and Garten, now Montesano residents, both grew up in Port Angeles and graduated from Port Angeles High School in 1985.
The significance of the seemingly simple name of their business becomes apparent as soon as one walks in the door. Their attractive showroom features various “Etc.” accouterments for which propane is used, such as fireplaces and inserts, freestanding stoves, burners and even fire pits.
Moreover, the items are artfully displayed in a way that evokes the feeling of being in someone’s home, complete with pictures, mantle displays, brickwork and even barbecue tools for the fire pit.
Some items are even displayed with cleverly formed crepe paper “flames,” thanks to Garten’s mother, Cynthia Pentland. Mother and daughter job-share their position there, each obviously with a creative eye.
The business also includes comfortable offices, a warehouse, the dispenser; a fenced area with the large storage tank and others that can be sold or leased and two “bobtails” (propane delivery trucks) … ETC.
To provide their customers with the best service they can, those accouterments also include a phone that Sukert carries in his pocket because he’s primarily the person who’s “on call 24/7,” he said. If someone’s out of hot water or a restaurant’s deep fryer is suddenly on the blink, it’s vital to get things back in working order quickly.
A former building contractor, Sukert designed the “entire facility,” including the two buildings, that makes up Propane Etc. He also “generaled” it, he said, referring to being the general contractor on the project. Construction was largely by Franciscovich, Inc., and Vessey & Sons.
Sukert admits he’s also a “die-hard hot-rodder.” He owns a 1932 Ford 3-Window, a ’63 Mercury Colony Park station wagon and two Corvettes, a 1967 and a ’69, all black. Though his wife isn’t so interested in hot rods, “she tolerates my obsession … my disease,” he quipped.
She loves the ocean. In fact, while still living in Port Angeles, they often visited the beach. And “that’s the only way I got her to move,” Sukert said, adding that he’d “unintentionally tricked her” by telling her they could live at Ocean Shores.
But “when I saw this property, I knew that this was it,” Sukert said. They also knew “it just wasn’t feasible to be that far away” from their business location, he pointed out. And Montesano is a “very logical place” for them to live, as well as a “nice community.”
Propane, Sukert noted, was discovered more than 100 years ago. A colorless, odorless liquid that vaporizes under certain conditions, the substance comes from natural gas or crude oil when it is refined, he said. An “odorant” is added to propane so it can be detected, in case it leaks, for example.
Propane under pressure becomes a gas. It will vaporize at any temperature above minus 44 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s “boiling point,” Sukert noted. A full propane tank contains neither all gas nor all liquid. And when the temperature falls, the vapor will again become liquid.
He likes “the nature of the fuel business,” Sukert said. He enjoys “the interaction with multiple different types of customers. Throughout our customer base, I have a customer that does just about anything — from artists, to chefs, retired generals, to managers of professional sports teams to … you name it.”
It’s also more predictable than contracting, Sukert said. “I know that when it gets cold, we’re going to be busy. I know that when it gets hot out, we’re going to be slow.”
That “allows me to take better care of my customers because I can be staffed when we need to be,” he said. And “it allows me to be good to my employees. Slow times are very predictable. Everybody knows when it’s going to happen,” he added.
“It’s nice being able to take care of people’s needs,” Sukert summed up. “What we do isn’t very exciting, but it is a necessity.”
More information about Propane Etc. is available at www.propaneetc.com or call (360) 533-7337.