It was 1952. Tim Flock was winning the 1952 NASCAR circuit title in a Hudson (Lee Petty would follow two years later). Charles Kuralt was a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill, and Russia was surprising the United States in the Helsinki Olympics, as the two superpowers matched each other in an athletic “Cold War.”
But to Hugh Shearin of Rocky Mount, the son-in-law of Stallings Oil Company founder A.R. Stallings, none of that mattered. He was more interested in the 18 100 lb. propane cylinders he had just bought from distributor Joe Blow in Kenly, thus entering the family-owned business into LP gas. A.R.’s wife, Mabel, came up with the name “Super Flame” and the rest, as they say, is history.
With wife June manning the books, and Hugh serving as vice president, deliveryman, and serviceman, the business grew and prospered. Additional servicemen and drivers were added. As times and technology changed, Hugh and June took a back seat when sons-in-law Brad Bobbitt (1984) and Ray Brinn (1990) joined the company. Brad and Ray have transitioned the business from the days of drivers and servicemen working overtime and being on-call during the summer tobacco season to today’s more diverse market with an emphasis on home heating.
Both have served the North Carolina Propane Gas Association (NCPGA) in various capacities; Brad having presided over the Association in 1993-1994, and Ray being President during the 1999-2000 term. Brad is one of a handful of NCPGA charter members of the “Young Gassers.” Ray continues to serve as the Chairman of the NCPGA Political Action Committee. Each recognizes the value of the association for safety, training, and marketing that comes from combining fellow marketer’ resources in dealing with governmental issues.
Brad reflects on the company’s philosophy which has enabled Super Flame to succeed over the past 62 years. “Each of our deliverymen has been with us over ten years, enabling them to get to know many of our customers, their personal requirements and preferences. I suppose our unofficial motto is “the customer may not always be right, but he is still the customer and deserves to be treated with respect.”
This philosophy applies to all aspects of Super Flame’s operation, but especially when a customer contacts the office. Office manager Debbie Hardy is the primary contact for customers who call or visit. “She does a great job taking the time needed for each person,” according to Brad. “Ray and I often talk to customers as well. It may not be the most efficient way of doing things, but we believe it’s the right way.”
Bobbitt continues. “Today, it seems many companies have sacrificed personal, caring service for the sake of increased efficiency. With many of our products being the same as those offered by our competitors–and we have plenty of competitors–we hope this philosophy gives potential customers a good reason to choose Super Flame Gas Company.”
We look forward to continuing our history of superior customer service and hope to be the leader in the propane industry throughout the Rocky Mount area in the years to come. Thank you for being a part of our growing client base. We owe our success to our loyal clients, and we look forward to offering you the quality that you have come to expect from Super Flame in years to come.