Decision to Switch to Propane Still Paying Dividends
A casual conversation in 2015 between Pete Schepis Jr., Operations director at The Greenwood Group, and Marty Mills at MFA Oil led Schepis to a decision that is still paying off today for the St. Louis-area landscaper.
Started in 2013 by Schepis’s father, Pete Sr., and his stepmother, Joan, The Greenwood Group is a full-service commercial landscape management company headquartered in Wentzville. Pete Jr. and his brother Nick Sarandos, Client Relations Director, are owners and run the day-to-day operations. With a peak-season team of 75 employees, the brothers oversee the management of about 165 properties in Wentzville, St. Charles, Chesterfield, St. Peters, O’Fallon, Maryland Heights and St. Louis.
“We are a complete landscape company offering lawn care, tree maintenance, and plant health care, as well as irrigation maintenance and landscape enhancements,” Schepis said. “We’re really a one-stop shop. Our customers include homeowners’ associations, villas and condos, municipalities, school districts and some retail locations.”
Nearly six years ago, Schepis lamented to Mills about the high price of gas, which at the time was about $4 a gallon. Mills suggested Schepis consider switching his mower fleet to propane.
“Propane was about $1.70 a gallon at the time, and compared to the price of gas, it made a lot of sense to switch,” Schepis said. “Marty and I discussed other benefits including propane being cleaner and environmentally friendly, and we decided it was a great time to do it. So, we bit the bullet and made the switch.”
The Greenwood Group has more than 50 mowers and the fleet includes Exmark, Ferris and John Deere brands. Schepis said Mills and his MFA team were instrumental in helping convert Greenwood’s mowers from gas to propane.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without Marty and MFA,” Schepis said. “At the time, we had one mechanic on-site and it would have taken him more than a year to convert all our mowers. Marty sent three or four of his guys who trained our mechanic and together they knocked out 75 percent of the fleet in about 10 days.”
Schepis credits MOPERC’s Lawn Equipment Assistant Fund (LEAF) program with helping Greenwood make the jump to propane by offsetting some of the conversion costs.
“The LEAF program was another big plus to start using propane,” he said. “Between converting mowers or purchasing propane mowers, the rebates made it financially feasible and saved us thousands of dollars. That’s money that we have been able to put back into the business, whether for buying another mower, saving for propane costs or buying extra tanks so our guys don’t have to wait to get to work.”
Operationally, Schepis said switching to propane has also saved his company time and money because of its clean-burning properties.
“Our engine life is a lot longer than what we had with gas,” he said. “Propane just burns cleaner, and it’s really helped with keeping the fleet running. We have fewer engine issues, and our downtime is minimal.”
To keep Greenwood’s 12 mowing crews going, a 1,000-gallon propane filling tank sits on-site in Wentzville, and all managers are trained to fill cylinders. Each manager is scheduled for a rotating “late-night” and responsible for making sure everyone gets back into the yard safely and then refilling anywhere from 20 to 30 tanks to be ready for the next day.
With all mowers now fully powered by propane, Schepis said switching to propane has been a decision he’s never regretted citing fewer engine service issues and less mower downtime but especially, cost certainty.
“At the time we started, we saw the benefit for our customers. We were getting charged more for services and supplies because gas prices were so high, but we didn’t have to do that with our customers,” he said. “It’s still true today as gas prices continue to fluctuate. We are able to offer consistent pricing because we know what our fuel costs are going to be. Our contracts are typically two to three years and that means a lot of savings over time, which is great for our customers.”
For more information about The Greenwood Group, visit www.thegreenwoodgroup.net.