The Story of Best Fire Hearth & Patio
The Preface: The revival of wood burning in the 1970s was similar to today. Rising home-heating cost stimulated the need for lower-cost heating solutions. The first oil embargo in 1973 sent those home-heating costs soaring. Many people turned to wood as an alternative heat source. By 1977, in response to the growing demand for wood stoves, entrepreneurs started importing stoves U.S. manufacturers started designing new stoves.
1977: The Stritsmans were avid wood burners, using an inefficient Franklin stove to heat their home at the time. In 1977, they were out looking to purchase a new wood stove to replace their Franklin stove when they discovered the dealer for Fischer stoves. The dealer was nothing more than 4 stoves being displayed in a shed at the owner’s home.
Wayne and his wife Eunice decided to open a part-time business selling stoves, thinking it may be a good way to supplement their income. So, with $1,500 and a lot of determination, they converted part of their garage into the first “showroom,” and purchased five Fisher stoves models: Baby Bear, Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and the Grandma Bear and Grandpa Bear . A wooden sign was built, hung off the Maple tree in front of their home in Wynantskill, NY, and “Wynantskill Wood Stoves” was open for business.
First marketing campaign: Pulling the seniors in the Town Of North Greenbush’s Memorial Day Parade, 1977.
Wayne was working a full-time job at this time as a carpet installer, so Eunice worked the shop during the day and Wayne worked the shop on nights and weekends. The business was not very complex at that time.
Customers came in, talked about their needs, chose a product, and came back with their pick-up truck to take the stove home and install it themselves.
The business was committed to carrying the very best products available, as well as the best product knowledge. Wynantskill Woodstoves was quickly gaining a reputation as wood-heating experts.
1979: The country was suffering from another oil embargo and the demand for wood-burning appliances soared. Wayne and Eunice decided that it was time for Wayne to devote his attention to the wood stove business full time.
1980: They expanded the shop into a second bay of the garage and added additional products to the stove business. The Garrison stove line was added, as were prefabricated chimney materials. Many requests were coming in at this time for installation of the wood stoves, so to keep with their commitment to excellent customer service, installation services for stoves and chimneys were added to their service offering. This offered a unique advantage for the business, as no other shops were offering these services. Wayne would install the stoves in the mornings and return to work in the store during the afternoons..
1981-1982: Stove sales were seasonal and this made for lean times in the spring and summer months. To offset this, some additional summer products were added: Wayne set up a wood shop off the back of the garage and started making picnic tables. At the same time, a line of Cedar outdoor wood furniture, gas grills, grill replacement parts, and propane fuel was also added. Part time employees were hired to support the installation segment of the company. This expansion and the summer products allowed the company to continue to grow.
1982: After five years and expanding into all three bays of the garage, Wayne decided more space and a better location were needed. The store was relocated to Route 4 in North Greenbush, NY. And the name was changed to Alternative Energy Systems.
This new location opened a new round of growth due to the increased visibility. Wood stove sales remained the mainstay of the company through the mid 80s. At this same time, the business growth required the company to hire its first full-time employee.
It was also at this time that the company added the wood fireplace to the product mix. This also opened a new channel of business for Alternative Energy Systems; the home builders and new construction segment.
1986: After many years of listening to customer complaints about annoying cold drafts around fireplace that were installed by their building contractor, Wayne decided, after research, that the installation procedure that home builders were using to install fireplaces was flawed. Alternative Energy Systems developed an installation procedure that resulted in better customer satisfaction for the homebuilders. Alternative Energy Systems was able to market and refine the concept to a number of custom home builders in Rensselaer County.
Our first big success came when the Michaels Group home builders contracted Best Fire for their Hunters Run project. After that, many more home builders decided to adopt our process and have continued to do business with us today.
1987: Alternative Energy Systems and Vermont Castings, the premier manufacturer of cast wood stoves at the time, finalized an agreement for Alternative Energy Systems to be the exclusive distributor for Vermont Casting products in the Capital district.
1992: The addition of the Vermont castings line and the expansion into the new construction channel resulted in continued growth. By 1992, Alternative Energy Systems had grown to 10 full-time employees, was clearly the area’s premier dealer for wood burning stoves, and was growing market share in the new-construction channel. That same year, Alternative Energy Systems was named “1992 Dealer of the Year” for the Vermont Castings line.
1997: After 15 years in North Greenbush and with many expansions to that facility, Best Fire eventually outgrew its home and needed to find a larger location. Alternative Energy Systems moved to the present location of Best Fire Hearth & Patio at 1760 Central Avenue in Albany, NY. The Albany location (often referred to as the Colonie location), with its showroom and warehouse space, totaled nearly 14,000 square feet.
1998: Pretty much coinciding with the move and after over 20 years in business, we found the need to change our name again, this time to Best Fire, Inc., or better known as “Best Fire Hearth & Patio”. At the time, the move was a risky one and in order to sustain itself Best Fire was forced grow again.
The new location, with its increased traffic and exposure, sent Best Fire on a growth run that resulted in the doubling of the business over a five-year span. Additionally, the Builders Sales segment of Best Fire experienced substantial growth during this period. And Best Fire’s family grew, too, as several new faces joined the team: installation teams, sales teams, and service teams.
2003: Best Fire decided it needed even more room due to increased business and we opened our warehouse and distribution center in Green Island, NY (often considered out Troy Warehouse location). From this location, we currently maintain our inventory, shipping, and receiving, and it serves as our home for the installation, service, and parts departments.
With the then-vacant space to fill, the old warehouse in Colonie was remodeled and converted into our current outdoor products showroom featuring a wide range of casual furniture, shade products, cooking grills, and many more designed to enhance your outdoor living space. Additionally, a fireplace-design center tailored to serve our homebuilder and new-construction channel partners was designed and remodeled. Homebuilders use this beautiful design center to facilitate product and finishing selections for their customers’ new homes’ fireplace(s).
2007: Best Fire Hearth & Patio installs three fireplaces in the “Extreme Makeover — Home Edition” house, being viewed by 20 million Americans!
Due to Best Fire’s strong partnership with Amedore Homes and Heat & Glo, and BFI’s reputation for quality, Best Fire was called upon to supply and install the necessary fireplaces for the Oatman-Gaitman residence. The Best Fire “Extreme Team” donated its time, efforts, and expertise to successfully install the two gas and one electric fireplaces on time. The Oatman residence Extreme Makeover episode aired on ABC on Sunday, May 20, 2007.
Today: Best Fire Hearth and Patio is:
- The premier hearth shop in Eastern New York
- The market leader for fireplaces to the home builders in Albany’s capital district
- The leading source for custom patio products in Albany’s capital district
- A company that focuses on the success and satisfaction of its customers and its people
- The reason for our growth is because we believe and live the concept that …
Quality and Service is never an accident, but rather, they are the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and careful planning.