Four Decades and Counting: Elmira Stove Works Creates a Renaissance for Vintage Appliances

Four Decades and Counting: Elmira Stove Works Creates a Renaissance for Vintage Appliances

Businesses come and go. Anyone can set up shop and sell products. But to build a brand with real staying power requires a unique fusion of purpose, personality and persistence. The history of Elmira Stove Works — from birth to leading vintage appliance brand — is a case study of thought leadership and an unwavering commitment to principles.

From humble beginnings, Elmira’s dedication to antique appliances set the stage for its rise within the industry. As the decades changed – and the needs and wants of consumers evolved – the Hendricks family watched, listened and learned. By adapting to new technologies and adding new products to their offering at strategic points over time, Elmira has survived, and thrived, as a leading provider of antique and retro ranges, refrigerators, microwaves, wall ovens, range hoods, and wood-burning cookstoves.

The 1970s and 80s: An old-fashioned opportunity presents itself
The story starts with the wood burning cookstove — absolute simplicity in cooking and heating for Canadian families. From his hardware store in Elmira, Ontario, Tom Hendrick’s father supplied wood burning cookstove parts to local Mennonites. In 1975, Tom saw an opportunity to supply complete cookstoves to the local market and, potentially, all of North America. He acquired the rights for the Findlay Oval cookstove, and soon thereafter began manufacturing the stoves in a former chicken barn just outside of town.

In response to growing demand, Hendrick expanded the product line to include a full line of gas and electric ranges with traditional styling — including some of the modern features the company offers today. To meet distribution demands, he engaged a collection of fireplace shops, appliance stores and emporiums across the continent, who became enthusiastic dealers for Elmira’s growing line of products.

And, just like that, a brand was born.

The 1990s: The antique look becomes all the rage
Once the wood burning cookstove gained a foothold, the time came to extend Elmira’s antique-inspired design aesthetic into other product offerings.

As consumers began requesting other antique-inspired appliances, the company added refrigerators, wall ovens, microwaves and dishwasher panels. In addition to traditional black, rich colors such as bisque, white, cayenne red and liberty blue were added to the line – imbuing Elmira appliances with a unique personality. The “new” antique appliances were particularly appealing to owners of Victorian houses, cottages and log homes who craved the look of vintage-styled appliances – but wanted modern functionality.

Tom’s son Brian Hendrick joined Elmira as vice president in 1995, adding depth to the company’s leadership as well as reinforcing the family-oriented atmosphere.

As the 90s came to a close, Elmira saw itself making a generational leap and prepared for the arrival of newer technologies. Comments Tom Hendrick, “Elmira has always focused directly on the needs of consumers, developing and updating products to meet their changing needs. Using the best and most innovative practices, we continue to grow with our customers.”

The 2000s: Retro culture comes full circle
As the new millennium kicked off, more consumers were being drawn to the look, feel and attitude of years past. In 2001, Hendrick saw a tangible shift in consumer tastes and took a sixty-year leap forward – from the 1890s to the 1950s.

Hendrick had been to a tradeshow and discovered that ‘50s retro items were all the rage. After doing a little digging, he recognized that no one offered large scale ‘50s-inspired appliances. That’s when he decided to develop a line of retro-style refrigerators. Inspired by the colors of popular cars from the ‘50s, including Robin’s Egg Blue, Cadillac Pink, Buttercup Yellow and Candy Red, the collection – which Hendrick dubbed Northstar – was offered in eight “not so standard” colors.

With its smooth, curved lines and bright chrome accents, the Northstar line became an immediate hit. A younger group of consumers quickly adopted the appliances as their answer to throwback styling. Over the past seventeen years, the Northstar line has continued to grow and now includes not only refrigerators but also keg fridges, ranges, range hoods, splashbacks, microwaves and dishwashers/dishwasher panels.

As the Elmira product line began to fill out and complete its shape, the time came for the company to acquire new resources for growth.

2006: A new headquarters for a new era
In 2006, Elmira Stove Works moved into its current office, warehouse and manufacturing building – a move that empowered the company with state-of-the-art facilities for both current operations and future expansion. The new facility boasted a rooftop solar system that, to this day, supplies half of the electrical power used in the building.

On the product front, Elmira returned in 2009 to its roots in the cookstove business with the introduction of the revolutionary Fireview stove – a modern day, wood-burning cookstove with clean-burn technology, a viewing window and optional propane side burners. This new addition, which featured the company’s signature vintage styling, brought Elmira full circle.

The late 2000s served to prepare the company and the brand for the decade to come — even newer technologies to answer the demand for traditional stylings of its most beloved appliances. “Over the past 43 years, we have realized that the more innovative and creative we get with our products, the better we can serve our customers,” says Hendrick. “It’s not just what we do: it’s who we are.”

The 2010s and beyond: A future that nods to the past
Elmira is constantly upgrading the styling and performance of its products, yet the company remains committed to maintaining the authenticity and craftsmanship that sets them apart. All products are made with North American components and are constructed of heavy duty materials. Metal parts are polished before they are nickel or chrome plated in the Elmira shop and the appliances are finished in-house, enabling Elmira to have complete control over the quality of the finish.

Says Hendrick, “Each Elmira appliance is handcrafted to the customer’s unique specifications to create a reflection of their individual taste and cooking style. It’s the details that matter and that provide a unique, and enjoyable, cooking experience.”

Today, Tom serves as the CEO of Elmira Stove Works, and his son Brian has assumed the role of president. In 2011, Tom was inducted into the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) Hall of Fame as one of the industry’s leading innovators. In 2017, he was honored with a NKBA Innovator Award

The Elmira mission – to recreate from the past, with an eye to the future – is the strategy that has succeeded for Elmira Stove Works for more than four decades. “A lot of people want to get back to simpler times,” says Hendricks. We’re able to provide products that let them experience a taste of the past while enjoying the modern conveniences and functionality they expect.”


EditCal 2018

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