Richgas evolves over time in Kane

The face of Kane, Pennsylvania, has changed tremendously in the past century. The population of Kane Borough in 1920 was 7,283, nearly double that of the 2010 census. While the town was booming, new businesses were popping up, unfortunately, few of which are around today. One of the few to remain until today is Richgas, which evolved from The Sloan & Zook Company and is proud to serve area residents for their propane gas needs.

Sloan & Zook constructed a gas plant in 1914 to process natural gas from the high-BTU Kane gas fields. Their new process removed the liquid components from the natural gas stream so the furnaces at the Kane Window Glass Factory could burn more efficiently. A large part of the liquid was lost in storage and transit, so the company installed pressure vessels for storage, and purchased a large fleet of pressurized rail cars for transport. The liquids recovered were used as natural gasoline, and in 1917 they separated the gases into propane and butane, beginning the company’s propane history.

In 1918, additional compressors, tanks, and a tower were added to separate the pentane, butane, and propane components. The propane and butane were weighed into cylinders and shipped by rail. Most of the rail cars were bound for Pittsburgh, as the Pittsburgh Thermoline Company purchases 100 percent of its propane and butane from the fledgling Kane business.

The portability of propane and butane helped create a residential market and many hardware and furniture stores sold gas appliances, particularly ranges. Sloan & Zook supplied retail marketers within a 250-mile radius who drove to Kane in pickup trucks for a supply of one-hundred-pound cylinders.

The gas field surrounding Kane began to run dry in the early 1940s, which made it necessary to begin buying propane to supply our customers. Sales kept increasing so the company had to install an 18,000-gallon storage tank in 1944. In 1947, R.T. Zook and Hugh Rich bought the Kane gas plant, changing the name to Richgas.

The company’s focus had shifted from the wholesale market to dealers and then to retail since the 1960s. A shift in the market meant the company had to change their focus to the retail end, and the company went through some big changes in a relatively short time. The company purchased two retail businesses in New York State, one in Jamestown and one in Rochester, as well as one in Coudersport and two in Warren County during the decade. It was during the 1960s that William Rich and Hugh “Bud” Rich Jr. moved their families to Kane and Ludlow to join the family business, while their brother Tom ran the facility outside of Jamestown.

Both Sloan & Zook and Richgas always maintained an office in Bradford, but in 1975, the office was moved to its present location in Kane.

Richgas continue to expand in the 1970s, adding more delivery vehicles as well as the installation of two 30,000-gallon tanks. A new office was also built at the company’s headquarters on Tionesta Avenue in Kane. A Warren County property was purchased in 1997, and another 30,000 gallons of storage was added along with an office and cylinder warehouse at 21680 Route 6 West behind Dreamboat Marine. The propane cylinder business is managed by Burt Nicklas of Follett Run and listed as Nicklas Propane Service. In June 2014, an additional 60,000 gallons of storage was installed at the Kane plant.

While the nature of the propane business has changed tremendously over the past century, Richgas continues to be a stable, locally-owned family business with proud roots in the surrounding communities. The company currently serves customers in a 10-county area with an emphasis on home heating. Richgas continues to be a family-run business, with Bill and Bud’s sons and now even grandsons following in their footsteps.