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Hearth & Home April 2018

Good Year, Good Show

By Bill Sendelback

Photos: ©2018 Amiee Stubbs Photography.

Once more, Nashville is proven to be the best venue for a gathering of hearth, patio and barbecue retailers, manufacturers, distributors and reps.

It was a good year for hearth product sales for manufacturers and retailers alike, and the celebration of a good sales year spilled over in Nashville with a well-attended HPBExpo in an upbeat and optimistic atmosphere.

Despite strong winter storms in the east that kept some Northeast retailers from travelling, total attendees, not including exhibitors, were up almost 24% to 4,587, and buying entities were up 16% to 1,464. Attending retail companies also were up 25% to 1,073. The numbers certainly did not set records, but did show strong improvements over recent Expos.

Another strong indication of retailer participation is that sales of education passports were up 37%, with many seminars and sessions seeing standing room only attendance; NFI Certifications at the Expo were up 62%.

“Yes, it was a good show with strong attendance,” said Jack Goldman, president and CEO of the HPBA. “I asked many attendees what they thought of the attendance, and their answers ranged from a 25% to 40% increase. From the upbeat attitude of attendees, it appears the industry is sure making a comeback.”

Ironically, while customer attendance was up, exhibitor participation was flat or down. Total exhibitors were off almost 1% to 377. Total booths were 1,255, down 3%, with indoor booths flat at 1,191. But outdoor booths were down 23% to 64.

Obvious was a strong showing for grills, with even more manufacturers exhibiting their wares. Especially evident were more and more ceramic Kamado-type grills. In hearth products, contemporary linear styling continued to forge ahead with a growing number of European-styled, vertical wood and gas burners.

Nashville seems like a perfect fit for the Expo. With many good hotels nearby, great restaurants, interesting attractions, a very large but comfortable convention center, and a very handy outdoor burn area, Nashville also is centrally located and easy to get to. That is reflected in the fact that we have had two of the best-attended Expos in recent years in Nashville.

The consensus of exhibitors and attendees was that this was a good show. “Yes, it was a good show, but we saw the same people,” said Dave Kuhfahl, president of Hearthstone Quality Home Heating Products. “We like Nashville and our customers love it. We should have the show here every year.”

“This is the best show we have had in a long time,” said Mike Nordby, vice president of Brownstone Distributing. “Traffic was up, and buyers were excited and placing orders.”

“This was a very good show with good traffic,” according to sales rep Bill Wing, president of Wing Sales & Marketing. “We saw new people, and we actually wrote orders.”

“We were very busy, and traffic was at least as good as last year,” said Jerry Scott, senior vice president of sales for RH Peterson. “Interesting how many people you can squeeze into a booth when you offer food and drink. Too bad some of the customers from the Northeast could not make it, but some did arrive late.”

“It was a good show with lots of traffic,” said Robert Stoll, president of Stoll Industries. “We were very busy, particularly the first two days.”

“We had good but not spectacular traffic,” according to Robert Huta, president of RLH Industries, “but I question having the show over a Saturday. We had dealers fly home late Friday afternoon to be in the shops for Saturday.”

“This was a fabulous show,” said sales rep Gene Kinney, president of Kinney and Associates. “We had lots of traffic, saw everyone we wanted to see, and actually wrote orders.”

“We had great traffic and were very busy,” said Patrick Moynihan, founder and president of Solas. “We were disappointed in the attendance from the Northeast, but we wrote orders and signed up new customers. Customers were very upbeat and our staff is now really fired up.”

“The traffic was great, and most of our customers were here,” said Andy Atwood, general manager of distributor LE Klein. “The whole show had a great upbeat attitude.”

“Traffic was great,” according to Jack Cohen, president of distributor BAC Sales. “We picked up new lines and, fortunately, our Northeast customers made it here.”

The Stellar Hearth booth.

Notable New Hearth Products

Not all innovative new hearth products at the Expo were entered in the Vesta Awards. Here are a few worthy of note.

Blaze Outdoor Products introduced its Firenado Spiral Gas Log Burner with three spiral burner heads for a more natural and random flame pattern. The product fits 24- and 30-in. log sets and includes decorative glass.

Modern Flames exhibited its Sunset Charred Oak Electric Log Set, which is battery operated, Wi-Fi-enabled, and designed to fit into wood-burning fireplaces with no need of an electric line.

Flare Fireplaces introduced its vent-free outdoor gas fireplace featuring a unique back wall that dramatically magnifies the flame for a full firebox effect.

Invicta, a large, French, wood-burning hearth appliance manufacturer, displayed a wide range of highly stylized wood-burners such as its Oracle and Presage wood stoves. The Invicta brand is imported by Energy Distribution, St. Alphonse-de-Granby, Quebec.

Everburn Manufacturing, better known for its OEM ceramic fiber gas logs, refractory panels and gas burners, is offering its Enhance a Fire as individual decorative products for gas fireplace fireboxes and mixed kits to personalize and stylize gas logs, gas fireplaces and electric fireplaces and fire pits.

Gas fireplace manufacturer Montigo introduced its line of outdoor fireplaces in very colorful, powder-coated cabinets featuring seven colors from Dune tan to Sol yellow to Carbon black.

In the Mendota Hearth booth, MagraHearth exhibited its line of wood-grained, noncombustible, concrete mantels, surrounds and wallboards that look just like reclaimed barn wood, in two colors and a wide variety of sizes.

Travis Industries booth was both large and busy.

Government Affairs Update

At separate sessions to update manufacturers and retailers about current regulatory challenges, the HPBA Government Affairs staff said that efforts to extend the effective date of Step 2 of the EPA’s New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) may be paying off. HB453 to extend the effective date to May 15, 2023, rather than the current 2020, passed the U.S. House of Representatives in March. A similar Senate bill, S1857, must now pass in the U.S. Senate. The HPBA asks members to encourage their senators to support the bill when it comes up for a vote.

Reporting on action by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to regulate gas hearth products, the DOE in August 2017 officially withdrew its proposed rule; now there are no pending DOE actions.

However, standing pilot lights for gas appliances are in the “cross hairs” of regulatory agencies in both the U.S. and Canada, according to the HPBA staff. In an effort to be proactive and ensure consistent regulations in both the U.S. and Canada, an industry Energy Conservation Task Force is developing a proposal to phase out standing pilots, but to allow seven-day timed pilots. This phase-out is expected to be in effect in either 2021 or 2022.

Besides banning standing pilots, Natural Resources Canada (NR Can) and British Columbia’s Ministry of Energy and Mines, are both suggesting 50% minimum efficiency on heater-rated gas hearth products, and British Columbia, as of Jan. 1, 2019, will require product labels differentiating decorative gas products from heater-rated models.

Zero Net Energy in California, an effort to reduce energy usage in new homes, no longer requires new homes to produce their own power; now, gas fireplaces can continue as an option. Similar action in the City of Vancouver, BC, seeks to reduce greenhouse gases with a stated goal of eliminating gas-burning in new homes; however, it now only affects homes of 3,000 sq. ft. or more. But the HPBA is concerned this action may spring up in other cities, effectively allowing only electric homes.

In other regulatory activities, because of a very few delayed ignition events in Canada, the HPBA has contracted the Technical Standard and Safety Authority in Toronto to determine whether current gas hearth appliance front screen barriers can contain any glass broken during a delayed ignition event and, if not, how the barriers can be changed to do so.

The Biomass Tax Credit expired on Dec. 31, 2016, but in February 2018, President Trump signed a bill making that tax credit retroactive to 2017. However, the tax credit is not effective to 2018 and beyond. So the HPBA is working to make the tax credit effective for 2018. The HPBA also is striving to make NFI certification applicable for occupational licensing of hearth product installers in many states.

The Invicta brand made its U.S. debut in Nashville.

PFI Breakfast Meeting

Members of the Pellet Fuels Institute (PFI) showed renewed enthusiasm for their industry in great part because of the positive and proactive attitude of its new executive director, Tim Portz, a veteran of the biomass industry. Also obvious was a change in direction for the domestic pellet fuel industry, now more focused on the residential pellet fuel market rather than the power generation market.

Portz introduced his Operation 100K effort, shooting to get back to the 100,000 pellet stove sales level of 2014. He pointed out that it will take 50,000 units just to make up for the older pellet stoves now being retired, and he emphasized that the PFI and the pellet fuel industry must learn to work more with hearth product dealers. Portz also predicted that, in the next few years, more pellet grills will be sold than pellet stoves, and he pointed out that purchasers of pellet grills also are good prospects for pellet stoves.

In a round table discussion, Adam Martin, CFO of hearth retailer Martin Sales and Service, Butler, Pennsylvania, emphasized that although heating capacity, styling, and cost are important in pellet stove sales, the convenience of pellets, stove maintenance, and the fact that pellet-burning is environmentally friendly, are more important to what he describes as the demographics for pellet stoves – the 30-50 year olds.

Bruce Lisle, president of pellet producer Energex, introduced a proposed USDA endorsed “check-off” program to increase pellet fuel sales. The program would be funded by the pellet industry through an assessment program overseen by the USDA similar to recent programs by the milk, egg, beef and Idaho potato industries. Hoping to raise $1.5 million to $2 million a year, the funding would be solely used for market research and promotions, said Lisle. “This will give us consistent and sustainable funding to promote our industry,” he said.

Lisle also pointed out that 245,000 pellet stoves are being sold annually in Italy, while the U.S. is selling only 55,000. “If we compared pellet stove sales per capita in Italy to the U.S., the U.S. would be selling 1.3 million units a year.”

The PFI’s annual conference will be held June 24-26, 2018 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Yes, it was a good year and a good Expo, and most are expecting an even better year this year. Plan to celebrate it at the HPBExpo March 13-15, 2019, in Dallas, Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys, Gas Monkey Garage, the TV show “Dallas”, and honky tonks such as Gilley’s and Billy Bob’s.

So ya’ll come, ya hear?

Salt Lake



Salt Lake


New Orleans



Exhibiting companies









Indoor booths









Outdoor booths









People attending


















Buying entities









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The key number for exhibitors is the number of buying entities; it was the largest since 2015.

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