Pleasantville neighbors, the Cohens and the Rakowers, love to barbecue; good friends, the families socialize together often. And the suburban cry, “We’re out of propane!” is all too familiar.
“We’re just as likely to say to each other, ‘Bring your own propane’ as we would ‘Bring your own beer or dessert,’” quips Barrie Rakower of their family get-togethers over the grill.
But they’d be the first to acknowledge: Not only is it a nuisance running out of gas halfway through grilling time, but getting the tanks refilled and back home again requires heavy lifting and more than a little concern, safety-wise.
“I would always make sure I didn’t have the kids in the car when I went to refill the propane. I’m never comfortable riding with a tank in the car while the kids are on board,” says Jennifer Cohen.
All of which led to their “light bulb” idea as they tossed the salad and flipped the burgers one day: a propane tank delivery service!
Now the four friends — in between regular jobs and taking care of their children — are running Firefly, making deliveries to Westchester backyards, and cleaning and servicing grills.
“Just about everything to do with propane is a hassle. Either the tank doesn’t have a measure, or it has a vague reading. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run out of gas as I have food on the grill, and I have to go inside and finish the meal in the oven,” explains Cohen. Their research has shown that 65 percent of the time, it is the female in the household who is doing the propane exchange. For someone like Rakower, who has a bad back, hauling a roughly 40-pound tank from car to backyard is a major problem.
So, now the girls run the business end of Firefly, taking orders and visiting local hardware and supply stores to spread the word, while the guys (attorney Joseph Cohen and marketer David Rakower, along with one extra employee) make deliveries on weekends and in the evenings — and keep backyard barbecues in top shape as well, doing cleaning and repairs. “You use less propane and your grill runs better if it’s clean,” Barrie Rakower explains. “But people are a little afraid to take apart their grills to clean them properly, because of the propane issue.”
Rakower and Cohen report that area merchants are pleased to hear about Firefly because customers frequently ask if delivery services exist. Householders don’t have to be home for delivery; the crew will leave a new tank by the backyard grill, ready for use. They do urge their customers, however, to have two tanks on hand; when one runs out, they encourage a call to Firefly for a delivery a few days later.
Between them, the two entrepreneurial families have five children. They met through nursery school. Jennifer Cohen was previously a prosecutor in Queens; she has an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old. Barrie Rakower was a 4th grade teacher in Mamaroneck; she is mom to an 8-year-old, a 5-year-old, and a 2-year-old.
If your family finds propaning a hassle, the Firefly gang will be pleased to hear from you. Call 1-888-384-3359, or go to www.fireflypropane.com.