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Hearth & Home November 2016

Richard Wright
Hearth & Home Magazine

Battleground Chicago

At times very few words are required to make a powerful, unforgettable point. 

That was the case when, in the first week of September, we noticed the following information presented in a small box on the left side of the front page of USA Today.

Like many of you, we travel to Chicago and theMART every September for the Casual Market, and have been doing so since 1989 – 27 years. For about half that time it was once a year, but when competitive juices started to flow, manufacturers decided an early Premarket in July would be advantageous.

The July market has proven to be the most enjoyable one. It lacks the hectic nature of the main event in September, and allows manufacturers the opportunity of spending some relaxed time with their better dealers, and vice-versa. For those of us in the media, it’s an unusual chance to actually have lengthy conversations with manufacturers, retailers and a rep or two. 

What it also provides is a chance to spend another four days in Chicago, a town (yes, it’s a city, but it has come to feel more like a town) that we’ve known for years and truly enjoy.

Second City? Not to us. In Chicago, skyscrapers are few, a blue sky is usually visible, and streets are lined with trees and flowers. There’s a very open feeling. There’s also the 23 miles of lake frontage that was set aside for people to enjoy.

Chicago is a special place. Through those 27 years that we’ve been attending the Casual Markets, every employee we’ve brought has felt the same way. It doesn’t take long to fall in love with Chicago.

So you can see why those figures in USA Today triggered emotions. How could it be that more people were killed in beautiful, welcoming Chicago than in our country’s longest war (Afghanistan, 15 years), and our third longest war (Iraq, almost nine years)?

Obviously, there’s something systemically wrong there in that toddlin’ town.

An Unusual Business

In 2014, a youthful company exhibited at the HPBExpo in Salt Lake City. Breeo Industries was showing its smokeless fire pit that is also an open flame grill. It’s called Ablaze, and it functions on the same principle as the majority of EPA-certified wood stoves – secondary combustion. 

A secondary supply of air enters through double walls and exits as smoke is leaving the unit; the addition of that oxygen allows the smoke to be burned off. The result? No one sitting around the fire is subjected to smoke in their eyes or in their lungs. The product won a Vesta Award for Best-in-Show – Outdoor Room Products. 

Leap ahead to 2015 and the HPBExpo in Nashville. Once again the folks from Breeo are showing their products, but when it comes time to leave, Jonathan Miller, Breeo’s vice president of Sales and Marketing, and his wife, Janessa, don’t head home to Ohio, but drive straight to New England pulling a 17-ft. Casita trailer along. 

That’s when they begin calling on dealers and explaining the concept behind Ablaze. They eventually reach Oregon, then drive down through California and back across the country once again.

In the 20 months since leaving Nashville, the Miller’s have opened up over 200 dealers; they have seen some of the most beautiful areas of the U.S., and experienced an adventure about which most of us can only dream. Right now, they plan to continue that lifestyle indefinitely (see article "Business as Unusual").

More Stories in this Issue

Business as Unusual

By Lisa Readie Mayer

How the co-founder of Breeo Industries and his wife are growing a business off-the-grid while traveling and camping from New England to California and back again.

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The Road from Bali

By Tom Lassiter

The thought of an outdoor beanbag chair took Australian Steve Anderson to China, then to the U.S. market with a far greater line of outdoor furniture.

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Anarchy & Resolve

By Richard Wright

Four men and one woman are laid off; a new company is formed; products they create win multiple awards.

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Courting Custom

By Bill Sendelback

With the return of new construction, once again many hearth dealers are chasing custom-home builders.

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A Life Well Lived

By Tom Lassiter

Randy Trull is a southern gentleman, quick with a smile and a story; he’s also a serial entrepreneur whose career has woven through many (most?) aspects of the textile industry.

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Helping Others

By Bill Sendelback

Merging the warmth of the heart with the warmth of the hearth has served Stoll Fireplace well throughout the years.

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2016 September Business Climate

In early October Hearth & Home faxed a survey to specialty retailers of hearth, barbecue and patio products, asking them to compare September 2016 sales to September 2015. The accompanying charts and selected comments are from the 203 useable returns.

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Parting Shot: Self-Contained!

Designer and television host Kelly Edwards came to builder Art Steedle with an unconventional request: build a home out of a 20 ft. marine shipping container for a TV segment on Tiny Homes.

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