John Andrews, owner of the Victorian Stove Shoppe, remembered one customer who had a bird fly down into their chimney and get trapped in the stove. His workers freed the bird outdoors.
But another customer had a more harrowing experience.
“A lady had a couple of raccoons get down the chimney into the house,” Andrews said. “I found out later the fire department and the sheriff’s department had to go to her house that night because there were three or four dogs in the house and they were going at it in the middle of the night, one room to the other, and they totally, totally destroyed the house. The dogs were trying to get the raccoons and vice versa. … Sometimes people don’t understand if they don’t get a chimney cap what can get in the house.”
This week’s early fall cold front brought in a Thursday morning rush of customers to the Victorian Stove Shoppe, which celebrates 30 years of business.
Andrews, who originally opened his business out of his own home in Fernley, had a part-time job driving a truck. He did some work cleaning out fireplaces, which gradually turned into selling stoves. When he found success as a retailer, he moved into his location on Pyramid Way in 1990 and has built up a clientele of 3,000 to 4,000 over the years.
Andrews said the haste is typical for last-minute customers who are seeking to heat their homes, though not quite this early in the year.
“Usually the end of August and on, we start getting busier after school starts because everybody throws in the towel after summer’s over with,” he said. “Normally, it doesn’t get cold until October and most people are procrastinators and want to wait until they absolutely have to do it.”
Andrews sells stoves for fireplaces or freestanding units from five different manufacturers but mostly uses Avalon or Harmon because they’re “top of the line,” with prices ranging from $799 to $3,500. Buyers can customize their fireplaces by color and style “with all the bells and whistles,” he said, and installation and maintenance are handled entirely by his staff of six full-time employees.
“We can install anywhere in the house or create a spot for it,” he said.
Most customers choose between wood and pellet stoves, but there are certain legal requirements for those that burn wood. Pellet stoves offer more flexibility because they can come with thermostats for homeowners to control when they turn on and off and set temperatures.
“It’s very convenient, which is really nice because a lot of people don’t want to go home right after work,” he said. “They want to go to dinner, turn it on and it’s nice and warm.”
He and his staff also take the time to help customers who have limited knowledge about their new stoves by reminding them not to place their pipes near combustible materials and that they’re required by the National Fire Protection Association to have their chimneys and fireplaces checked and cleaned annually.
“We don’t have a blind eye to just cleaning and (then) running down the street,” Andrews said. “The right thing to do is to bring (an issue) to their attention. … It’s not enough to meet expectations anymore. We want to exceed them. It’s important not to miss the details and just as important, not to leave a mess in the house.”
Like many local businesses, Andrews has been affected by the economy. This year to date, he said he has sold 30 to 40 stoves, though his busy season is just now starting. His staff voluntarily agreed to cut their hours during the summer so as not to have any layoffs.
“It’s challenging,” he said “There’s always something different. Nothing’s ever a real constant.”
As part of Victorian Stove Shoppe’s 30th anniversary celebration, Andrews is offering discounts on stoves he’s carrying in stock and will offer free gifts, such as cleaners and starters. There is also a 30 percent tax credit, up to $1,500, toward any wood or pellet stove.
Victorian Stove Shoppe is located at 345 Pyramid Way. The store is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.