Seventy years ago, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet made its television debut on ABC, John Steinbeck’s East of Eden was published, Eddie Fisher’s “I’m Yours” was released — and Hocon Gas was born.
It wasn’t called Hocon at the time. Mike Gable had escaped the Nazis, joined the war effort and rose to become the personal driver for an army general. When the war ended, he moved to New York and soon found his bride. As luck would have it, her father owned a propane delivery company. He got a job as a propane delivery driver.
Eventually, Mike decided to venture into his own business. With the backing of his father-in-law, Mike bought the Connecticut Gas Co., a small propane company with 250 customers, in Darien, CT. A few years later, after merging with Home Oil Company, it was renamed Hocon.
Back then, propane was delivered exclusively in 100-pound cylinders and principally used for cooking and hot water. Mike saw the potential to expand the uses of propane for homes and businesses, and his entrepreneurial venture grew.
David Gable, Hocon’s current CEO, didn’t think much of his father’s line of work.
“I had started a construction business in New Orleans after attending Tulane University,” he said. When a national propane show happened to take place there, Mike lobbied hard for David to check out the show with him. When he did, he was surprised by the national scope. It was a much bigger industry and had much greater potential than he had imagined. David ended up joining the business in 1982.
“I really started working on the ground floor,” David said. “I drove a truck, did installations, sales, among other jobs.” There were only around 3,500 customers at the time.
“I remember the feeling around the company was that I was a college kid, the boss’s son, the whole bit. I think most of the employees thought I’d move on to something else. But I liked the people, liked the customers, liked the business, and I saw some real opportunity to modernize and grow,” he said.
In the early 90s, Mike effectively stepped away from the business, and David fully took over the reins. Over the next decade, Hocon took off.
“I saw the boom in Connecticut real estate, with lots of new homes being built. I truly believed that propane would be the best option, and we needed to be the company that builders and homeowners could rely on.”
The company expanded beyond its Norwalk base. We bought a small company in Waterbury and added significant storage. It was also unusual to have a service department that could fix things for customers. We created one. We started adding more locations throughout the state (there are now eight) and diversifying into industrial gases, propane Autogas, hearth products, pool and water heaters and heating oil. Today, Hocon has more than 30,000 customers.
We asked David what about Hocon makes him most proud. He said, “We’ve always tried to set a high bar — in safety, service, innovation, technology, training, and products. But I think it’s our people who make me the most proud. Our team goes through so much to take care of our customers. No matter what the weather, our people show up and put the customer first. My dad would have liked that.”