Hearth Retailer Profile

A Novel Approach to Purchasing

As hearths become more design oriented and less utilitarian, everything hearth related—including fireboxes, mantels and surrounds—is reaching a new level of sophistication in terms of function, design and materials. Gas logs are no exception. Hearths are becoming just as much art pieces as they are a way to warm a room.

Doug Vineyard, general manager of Hargrove Hearth Products, Sand Springs, Okla., says, “Consumers want the perfect gas logs to complete the image they are trying to create with their fireplaces.” Hargrove has been manufacturing and distributing gas logs and other hearth products to specialty retailers since 1984. It is known in the industry as a leading innovator, having received two Vesta Awards in 2007 for its log designs.

For gas-log manufacturers, it has become more important than ever to stay in touch and to evolve as fireplace trends change. Hargrove has done this by creating products that look realistic and function well in fireplaces of every style and size, from small electric units to massive masonry designs.

“Logs can make or break the look of a fireplace,” Vineyard says. He explains that for eight to nine months of the year, a fireplace may not be in use, so how log sets look when they aren’t burning is just as important as how they look when they are burning.

Hargrove designs its logs with this fact in mind, creating each log from a master of real wood and painting the details on each log by hand. It pays special attention to the areas of the logs that don’t accumulate soot to ensure that the original color and beauty are visible for years to come. Hargrove also uses black ember materials so that the embers will blend with the fireplace when it’s not burning. “The details matter, especially to today’s consumers,” Vineyard adds.

Log materials are evolving as well. For years, refractory gas logs (which are made of concrete) were the industry standard, but lightweight ceramic-fiber logs have recently grown in popularity. Ceramic-fiber logs have been proven to generate more heat in a room than refractory gas logs, and they emit a glow reminiscent of a real fire.

Hargrove began manufacturing ceramic-fiber logs for its premium log sets two years ago, and it has enjoyed huge gains in its business. “Many retailers sell our ceramic-fiber logs based on the fact that you get more heat into the room,” Vineyard says. “Some of our retailers will burn a ceramic-fiber set side by side with a refractory set, and customers say they can feel that the ceramic logs radiate more heat.”

In 2007, Hargrove received a Vesta Award for its Cross Timbers vented ceramic-fiber log set, which will work using any burner system from standard to premium (unlike most ceramic-fiber logs, which require specific burner systems).

When it comes to trends, Vineyard is seeing a big move toward large fireplaces. Even people with several fireplaces in their homes will have one large main fireplace. “You can’t just throw a standard, single log set in a 60-inch masonry fireplace; it will look ridiculous,” he says.

Hargrove has introduced the Kodiak series of logs, designed specifically to fill these large fireplaces. The company makes a unit that has a double-stack burner, with one burner in the front of the log set and one in the middle, for 30-inch to 60-inch fireplaces. It has even developed a triple stack, for resort-sized fireplaces, that attaches a third burner behind an additional stack of logs.

Vineyard says that he was overwhelmed by the number of people who expressed interest in the big log sets at the 2008 HPBExpo in Atlanta. “This tells me that big fireplaces are out there,” he explains. Vineyard also sees a growing interest in electric fireplaces that coincides with the green building movement. Hargrove has had great success with its 24-inch and 30-inch electric log sets, and even won a 2007 Vesta Award for its Revolution electric logs.

The company plans to expand its electric line, at some point, by offering alternative sizes (especially smaller sizes, such as 16-inch to 18-inch logs that can be used to retrofit fireplaces that can no longer burn wood or gas).

The latest evolution of the hearth is outdoors. As the outdoor room continues to gain popularity, manufacturers are creating fireplaces of all shapes and sizes, and they are adding ambience to porches and backyards across the nation. Vineyard is excited about a new outdoor product that Hargrove plans to unveil at the 2009 HPBExpo, but he is not willing to reveal what it is. “Everyone offers firepits and grills; we plan to bring the hearth to the next level outdoors,” he says.


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