Master Craftsman: Gary Laube and Kyle Laube, Liberty Gas in Westhampton

Liberty Gas, Gary Laube, Kyle Laube
Gary Laube, left, and his son Kyle Laube. Credit: Barbara Lassen

Gary Laube has been in the propane and gas industry for more than 35 years. Though he had already built up and sold one gas business years earlier, in 2009 he decided to start another with his son, Kyle Laube, who had followed in his dad’s footsteps.

They created Liberty Gas, a one-stop, full-service source for all residential and commercial propane needs, and the business has quickly grown and continues to evolve, Gary says. Along with Kyle’s wife, Noel Laube, they run the business out of a state-of-the-art office building they own in Westhampton Beach, and their customer base has increased to 4,000.

The Laubes have strong ties to the area—both Gary and his son grew up in the Center Moriches–East Moriches area, spending time with family in Westhampton. Kyle went to Westhampton Beach High School and both he and his wife have been involved as youth coaches in several sports.

They learned the gas business, inside out, working for other companies when each got their start. As much knowledge as they have acquired over the years, they also are dedicated to educating the public and their clients, and that goes to the very foundation of propane’s many applications. The fuel can be used for cooking, heating hot water, and fueling dryers, generators, barbecues, fire pits and fireplaces.

“Of course, we deliver and we do full install, from installing tanks to burying tanks, to running all the gas piping from the tanks to the house,” Kyle says. “The interior gas work, installing the piping inside and outside. We service everything that has to do with gas, every appliance. We do install appliances, you know, boilers, hot water heaters.”

What is the benefit of having propane versus natural gas or another heating element?

“Freedom,” says Gary. “If you have natural gas—natural comes right to your house, you basically have one supplier that you’re paying and they can dictate any price they want.”

Propane, a by-product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining, is eco-friendly, safe and efficient. It is liquified through pressurization but can be compressed for transport—that is why it is known as liquefied petroleum gas or LPG. Propane gas is generally less expensive than heating oil furnaces and boilers, and propane equipment runs more efficiently than heating oil equipment, and even requires less maintenance. Due to its being a cleaner option, and one that provides more flexibility for larger homes being built in many locales on the East End, it is also becoming an increasingly go-to option.

“There’s quite a few accounts that we’ve done now that the houses are so big that they cannot run natural gas to it because the company cannot provide enough gas to supply to the house,” Gary explains.

“That’s the problem we’re having out east, that the natural gas line isn’t big enough to supply these houses. So even though there’s natural gas running through these areas, due to the size of these houses, they can’t provide enough natural gas. So we’re coming in and putting propane in.”

There is a certain art to laying the gas lines—a special, high-poly pressure plastic that goes underground and galvanized pipe inside the home. It’s not just about the laborious work of digging and dropping the lines. Propane requires special safety precautions since the gas is combustible in the air, and Liberty Gas employees attend special courses and receive ongoing education to ensure the highest safety standards.

The company has six delivery trucks and five service trucks and employs 29 people in total. “And we’re always looking for more qualified people,” Kyle notes.

Liberty is also a 24-hour service, on call if their customers run out of gas or there is a service issue. “This time of year, it’s cold right now, if someone has no heat at night or something, we will respond,” Kyle says.

In 2013, Liberty became a direct supplier, cutting out the middleman and offering more competitive pricing by adding an on-premises propane terminal, allowing the company to store propane shipped directly from the refinery. The company has 30,000 LP storage at their home base in Westhampton and 18,000 LP storage in Calverton.

“We pride ourselves on our service and our response. I feel today, nowadays, not in just gas but in almost every industry, that customer service is terrible,” Kyle says, noting that they receive compliments on their receptionists and technicians. Their response is usually within the day, and Liberty Gas also has its own service department, which not every gas company does, instead of subcontracting out such work. “Everything that we provide, we can service. We’re an all-in-one company.”

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Credit: Barbara Lassen