“If there has been growth at Mr. G Propane, it is because of the foundation my father set,” said Zinnia Elizondo, marketing director of the Mission-based company. Amador Garcia, her father, was a migrant worker born in Ciudad Mier, who went on to serve in the U.S. Army, get a degree in education, and follow his entrepreneurial talents to open two convenience stores. In 1990 he bought a bobtail truck and began delivering propane to houses and businesses across the Valley. He grew Mr. G Propane by acquiring small propane companies and increasing the product line and customer base.
When Garcia died suddenly at age 55 in 2002, his widow Noemi, daughter Zinnia and son Omar took over. They had all worked with the business, so Noemi took on the CEO responsibilities, Omar became operations manager and Zinnia stepped into management of marketing and social media. “We all have our niche, what we like to do,” said Zinnia.
Mr. G Propane and the Garcia family give back to the community as a way to honor Amador’s memory. Because he was a veteran, much of their efforts focus on assisting and honoring veterans. Veterans receive a 5% discount on propane and a company delivery truck has camouflage wrap.
But the family wanted to make more of a commitment to local veterans, Zinnia explained. After mulling possibilities for five years, she and friend recently started the non-profit Operation Murph, whose president is retired Air Force Master Sergeant Mario Romero.
The group has a short-term goal of advocating for veterans by educating businesses, such as restaurants, and city and county departments about state and federal laws regarding guidelines of the American Disabilities Act. They highlight the use of service dogs by veterans with PTSD and the fact that they must be allowed inside public places.
“Many of the veterans that I have met have service dogs, but they tell me that many places have denied them service because they have their dogs with them,” Zinnia said. “Any time we do a presentation at a restaurant, we put an Operation Murph sticker on their door that reads ‘This establishment is friendly to service dogs.’”
Getting a service dog through the VA costs thousands of dollars and takes a long time, according to Zinnia. Operation Murph aims to take a local approach by helping match veterans with PTSD with rescue dogs, creating a program that will train service dogs at an affordable cost for them. “The individual needs to bond with the dog,” and the two can help each other. The group intends to bring the concerns of veterans and others with disabilities to the attention of local leaders.
In another outreach, Mr. G Propane held its first blood drive in September and plans to hold one twice a year. “Many people had never given blood before, and they came here because they feel like they know us after 25 years,” said Noemi. “This makes them aware of things they can do for each other, and it doesn’t cost them anything. We know we are saving adults and children with one pint of blood.” Raising awareness through the UBS on-site collection is important, and the company provides an incentive for those who donate. A customer recently told Noemi that he had received a blood transfusion, and she told him blood was available because of compassionate residents of the community.
Mr. G Propane also participates in the Adopt-a-Highway program, taking care of a two-mile stretch of La Homa Road that includes their business frontage.
Working to keep the business successful, besides being a tribute to the founder, reflects a commitment to the business’s 14 employees, their families and customers Valley-wide. “Several hundred customers have been with us since the very beginning, back when the convenience stores refilled customers’ portable propane bottles,” Noemi said. “With the population growth, our sales have increased tremendously.” In fact, Mr. G has won TPW bids state-wide, including contracts in the Big Bend area.
“We respect Mr. G’s tenacity. He showed us the way,” Zinnia concluded.
This story by Eileen Mattei appears in the November 2016 print edition of Valley Business Report.