To qualify for the Texas Business Treasure Award a business should provide employment opportunities and support the state’s economy for at least 50 years in a building that still looks and has maintained its architectural integrity. Also, that business must be a “for profit” business that has operated continuously by the same family in the state of Texas. Ownership may pass through cousins or in-laws and still qualify. The Kemp and White families have qualified for well over 50 years and have served the community with integrity and service. Judy and Morris White are the owners now, but the Kemp name is all over the store as well. Entering the doors of Texas Butane is like stepping back in time. A half century of yearly advertising calendars line up across the top of one wall reminding customers of how long the business has been in operation. Photos and paintings of the Weatherford Square, family and Texas scenes are so interesting that one can forget that they came there to purchase a supply of propane. Although propane is their main product it is far from the only inventory item on the sales floor. A selection of gas grills, gas fireplaces, fire bowls and patio heaters line the aisles. Add seasoning and sauces made in Texas with a lot of Texas items for gifts and one can do a lot of shopping. Books, many written by Judy’s mother, Mary Kemp and other local authors are sought after in such a community with historic interests.
- Edmond Kemp, Jr. was born January 24, 1927 in Weatherford to V.E. Kemp, Sr. and Mary (Morrow) Kemp. He grew up on the Northside of town by the railroad tracks and practically in the wagon yard. He attended the Weatherford schools and graduated from Weatherford High School in 1944. In the fall of 1944 he entered Texas University for pre-law studies, but realizing he would not finish a full school term before going to war he volunteered for the Navy at Christmas 1944. He served a total of 19 months, 9 of these being spent in occupation of the Philippines after V-J Day.
Mary Estelle Carnes was born in southern Parker County, Texas, on July 19, 1927, the daughter of Everett and Lottie (Howell) Carnes. She graduated from Weatherford High School in 1944, the same class as V.E. While on boot leave V.E. married Mary in March 1945. He was discharged in May, 1946. Mary worked for the superintendent of Weatherford Public Schools for eighteen years. In 1948 their daughter, Judy V. was born and in 1951, Gary V. (Rusty) was born. V.E and Tex Jones formed the Texas Butane Co. in Weatherford in April 1958. By 1964, the Kemps owned Texas Butane in its entirety and Mary worked for the company full time. Texas Butane Co. continues to be operated by members of the Kemp family. Mary Kemp has long had a passion for Parker County history, perhaps stemming from the fact that both the Kemp and Carnes family histories in Parker County date to 1860. She is a respected Parker County historian, author of several books on Parker County historical topics, founder of the Abandoned Cemetery Association, member of the Parker County Historical Commission, and organizer and hostess of the Shaw-Kemp Open House.
V.E. Kemp, Jr. Mary Estelle (Carnes) Kemp
Morris White was a teenager when he started working at Texas Butane in 1964. Judy married him a year later. “I like to say that I married the bosses’ daughter and all I got was a lot of hard work,” Morris remarked, “But I wouldn’t do anything else.”
Morris and Judy White celebrating their 50th anniversary. And, yes, right they are at Texas Butane
Judy White, expressed that she feels like she was born in her business. She has been coming to the Texas Butane shop five days a week since 1958, when she was 10 and her parents started the business.
“I’d sit at that desk after school and do my homework,” she said. “That’s a good thing. I feel comfortable here. This feels like home, the customers are like my family. I’ve been here longer than I’ve lived in any home we’ve had.”
After V. E. passed in 1998 Morris and Judy purchased the business from Mary Kemp. Today, Todd and Judd, the White’s youngest sons, work in the family business, as does daughter-in-law Jennifer, while Rod the oldest, does contract work for the company. The White’s children grew up in the business just as Judy did. “I grew up right here in this office, and we raised our kids here,” Judy said. “Now they’re raising our grandkids here.”
“At Texas Butane Co Inc., we are proud to be your classic family business. We are the same family, in the same location, with the same phone number, and the same commitment to great service that V. Kemp Jr. had when he first opened the doors in 1958. To us being a family run business means that every time we come to work, every job we do, our heritage, history and family name is being represented; which is why it’s important to all of us that we do the safest, most professional job for our customers each and every time.” A statement that personifies the commitment of this family to Texas Butane.
The Parker County Company serves customers across five counties including Tarrant, Hood and Wise. There are some customers that have been with them since 1958. Wanda Langford is one of them.
When asked what the secret is to keeping customers for half a century, Langford said, “It’s not real complicated. They’re nice.”
“They’re not just your customers,” Judy said, “they become your friends. They’re almost like family.”
Judy is the first to admit that cold weather can be tough, but she and Morris love their job. “The best part is meeting the people who are enjoying the product we have. It’s an outstanding industry to be in. The winter months can be demanding when the heating season is going on. We put in a lot of long hours, but we enjoy what we do.
Judy White believes that one secret to having a staff that treats customers well is treating employees well and creating a positive, upbeat work environment.
Front Row: Todd White, Kaleb Kemp, Zane Kemp, Judd White, Rod White Second Row: Horace, Alma, Judy White, Diane Kemp, Mary Kemp, V Kemp Jr. Third Row: Morris White, CJ May, Rusty Kemp, Florencio Gaucin
The Butane and the Trucks
The family and the staff are always ready to pose for photos at Texas Butane. Front row: Kaleb Kemp, Judd White, Zane Kemp Back Row: Judy White, Morris White, Todd White, CJ May, Mary and V Kemp, Diane and Rusty Kemp, Horace Langford
The Texas Business Treasure Award was presented on October 25, 2016. Presenter was Bob Shepherd of the Texas Historic Commission and Janice Smith Chair for the Parker County Historic Commission.
Jennifer White, Todd White, Mary Kemp, Judy White, Morris White, and Rod White
Front Row: Horace Langford, Todd White, Jennifer White, Morris White, Judy White, Halston Lucia, Brooklyn Hayes, Mary Kemp, Rylee White, Kendra Lucia Back Row: Gary Stitzlein, Janie Hernandez, Dennis Reagan, Larry Johnson, Rainey White, Charlie White, Rendy White, Taylor White, Jaime White, Judd White, Eliza Gail White, and Rod White.
Mary Kemp and Leon Tanner at the Shaw Kemp Ranch. The annual Bluebonnet event is one not to miss.