When Ed Rogers opened Northern Sierra Propane in 1990 in Grass Valley, he thought he knew the fuel business.
He had just closed down a Chevron gasoline station in Placerville, Calif., and was ready to embark on the new venture.
"I found out I didn't know a thing about" propane, Rogers said. "I only asked myself 70 or 80 times what I was thinking. The two are nothing alike."
The first handful of years were a tough slog, Rogers said.
Though Northern Sierra's dusty parking lot off of John Bauer Avenue near the Nevada County Airpark is now full of his employees' cars, it wasn't that way at first.
"I started it at first with a partner, but we split after the second year, and it was only me. I was the guy filling the tanks and driving the truck," said Rogers, now 68. "It took a good 10 to 12 years before it really got off the ground."
Northern Sierra sells commercial and residential propane (such as propane cannisters for barbecues) all of western Nevada County - as far east as Washington and west to the Yuba County line, a lot of real estate to cover.
Paid his dues
Rogers still fills the tanks and puts on miles as a driver - but he does it now with his own truck and the family camper in tow.
"For about the first 16 years, I'd only have two or three weekends a year where I'd take two-day weekends. You just couldn't take more time than that," he said. "This year, I took two months."
He drove his truck and camper 7,500 miles across Canada, making it as far east as Nova Scotia and as far west as Vancouver, stopping at points in between.
Last year, he took the camper to Branson, Mo., to take in a show in the city's famed entertainment district to check out the 1960s a cappella group, "Six."
When he's at home in Grass Valley, Rogers splits his time between Northern Sierra and Herger Gas in Rio Oso, Calif.
While Rogers owns Northern Sierra, he manages Herger Gas, which is owned by the family of Republican U.S. Congressman Wally Herger.
To contact Staff Writer Kyle Magin, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4239.