Welcome to our Mr. Fireplace dealer profile for the month of December. This month we are profiling Bonfire Pellet and Wood Heating located in Vanderhoof, BC.
Jim and Barb Penner opened Better Buys Furniture & Appliances in the early 90’s. Their sons Lauren and Stuart gained the experience needed to run their own business through their ventures and upon Better Buys closing in 2006 they opened Bonfire Pellet and Heating. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Lauren about their business.
The Penner brothers have been in the fireplace industry for over 20 years each. While working in this industry for that length of time, and on top of it all working with family, it is important for everyone to stick to what they know and excel at it. With Lauren focusing more on the sales and office side of things, and Stuart who is WETT certified and factory service trained running the service department the mix is good. Focusing on each of their strengths helps them show their business as experts in the industry. When asked if there was any advice that Lauren would give to any young heating professionals he simply stated to never stop learning. “Learn as much and as often as you possibly can, gaining valuable experience along the way. This is an ever-changing industry where if you don’t keep up you will be left behind.”
One of the biggest factors to their success as a business has been customer service. Lauren stressed the importance of the customer stating “the customer is the most important part of any business, and if you don’t take the time to properly ask the questions and inform the customer of what they are buying, you are going to have troubles. Taking the time to thoroughly go through the unit with the customer, showing them the complete burn process, and properly showing them how to burn their stove optimally is a must.. You must make sure that when that customer leaves your store, they feel satisfied that they have purchased and completely understand the right stove for their heating needs.” But the customer service process doesn’t stop there. It continues on through to the installation, and eventually to the actual servicing of the product if issues arise in the future.
Now you might ask, where is Vanderhoof? Well it lies near the geographical centre of British Columbia. Vanderhoof has a population of roughly 4,500 residents within their town limits, and if you include the outlining rural communities it services, that number roughly reaches 10,000 people. With the growth being felt in the forest industry, agriculture and related industries that number continues to grow.
Vanderhoof looks like a beautiful secluded little town. But the downside to being a smaller town off the beaten path is that the costs to get common things you may need in your day-to-day life goes up. One of these things is the cost for natural gas or propane. In Vanderhoof the cost to heat with gas can cost 33%-50% more and they continue to rise. This combined with the advancements in solid fuel burning stove technology has lead to an increase in the demand for these products.
The increase in heating costs have drove some customers to heat their home 100% with solid heating sources like pellet furnaces, and if this or any product starts having an issue, it is the Penner’s time to shine again with their customer service. “Fixing a customers issue with their heating device right away is key if you are going to continue to succeed in this industry. If you are going to service your customer properly you have to have the parts in stock to fix the issues that may arise.”
Bonfire Pellet and Wood Heating is experiencing great growth this year and are poised to continue that trend in the future. They are located perfectly just outside of Vanderhoof on Highway 16 giving them easy access for customers in both the Vanderhoof town limits and the nearby servicing communities. This combined with the continued increase in NG and LP for heating, there is no reason to believe that they will not continue to see growth in the next 5-10 years.
We here at Mr. Fireplace would like to thank Lauren and Stewart Penner for their continued support as a dealer of the Quadra-Fire and Harman product lines. We are truly blessed to have great dealers like Bonfire Pellet and Wood Heating that are doing things the right way and experiencing such great success with the product offering. We thank them for taking the time out of their busy days to contribute to this dealer profile and wish them continued success in the fireplace industry. Look for our next dealer profile in the March edition of our Burning Issues.