On a crisp autumn evening, what could be better than sitting in front of a fireplace in your living room and enjoying the warmth radiating from the flames? Add a companion, a glass of wine, some soft music in the background, and the picture is complete.
The place to find just the right fireplace for your picture is The Fireplace Professionals, Inc. at 2289 Wisconsin Highway 73, in the midst of the rolling hills west of Cambridge. The showroom, with 25 operating fireplaces, 8 working stoves, and 10 static displays, is a short drive from anywhere in south central Wisconsin.
Owner Scott Engelberger has been in business since 1992. Customers looking for the right fireplace can also find appropriate flooring for their fireplace room at Scott’s sister business, Flooring Professionals Inc., located at the same site. He and his five employees work with both homeowners and contractors. The majority of customers are in Dane, Rock, and Jefferson Counties.
Scott doesn’t do it all alone. His wife, Mary Ann, is the accountant and also decorates the showroom for each season. “There’s always something in bloom at the showroom, either inside or out,” Scott says appreciatively. Daughter Abbie Jacob, sales assistant, runs the showroom and handles marketing and customer service. Son Aaron is an outside sales person and installer.
Initially, Scott wanted to be a dairy farmer. After graduating from high school, he farmed in the Black Earth, Richland Center, and Oregon areas for several years. He also attended the now-defunct Madison Business College to study accounting and computer programming.
While in school, Scott started the fireplace division for another company. Scott’s trademark was his suit that he always wore when he called on builder customers. He would walk onto a job site and “everyone would take notice. I would be recognized by people years and years later.” After 10 years with that company, Scott left and went to work for a flooring company in Janesville, but found that sales were tough. “The builders had prior relationships with flooring people and didn’t want to try a new supplier,” he says.
Because he’s always been a self-starter, Scott started The Fireplace Professionals out of the back of his car working part-time at nights while he was with the flooring company. Scott credits Roger Johnson, his long-time former partner who had been an installer with another fireplace company, for his initial success. “Within six months we had a truck, and within a year I was able to draw a salary for Roger. I wouldn’t have been able to do this if not for him,” Scott states. Roger still helps out when needed.
A customer coming to The Fireplace Professionals showroom will have a variety of fireplaces and stoves to choose from as well as grills, smokers, and fire pits for outdoor rooms. “I enjoy dealing with people, helping them figure out what they like and want in a fireplace, and then supplying that design to the builder all the while staying on budget for the homeowner.” Customers building homes, remodeling, or adding fireplaces will receive a custom design that helps them visualize the final product as well as customize it to their own tastes. This is accomplished either with a visit to the showroom or an in-home appointment.
Typically in a new home the builder allows $5,000 to $7,000 for a finished fireplace. A remodeling project from scratch can cost $8,000 to $12,000. A linear fireplace with a contemporary look could run twice that much.
The Fireplace Professionals installed fireplaces in two of the four condominiums at the top of the Edgewater Hotel in downtown Madison. “It was not an easy job,” says Scott. “There were special construction requirements and venting issues, but we got the job done.”
Customers can have confidence in Scott’s know-how in the fireplace business. “I tell them that I can safely install everything that can burn their house down or blow it up because all The Fireplace Professionals sales staff and installers are National Fireplace Institute (NFI) certified. That makes us different from other companies.”
NFI professional certification involves passing a rigorous exam covering important topics, like safety and placement, venting requirements, and installation guidelines. The knowledge required to pass the exam gives The Fireplace Professionals staff the expertise in fireplace-area design and installation. In turn, the customer has a safe and beautiful fireplace that will provide warmth and pleasure for years to come. Scott argues that certification is something a customer should look for because it shows that the installer has paid proper attention to the safety and performance of the fireplace.
Prior to the recession of 2008, about 70 percent of Scott’s business was new construction and 30 percent was remodels. That flipped during the recession and has come back to about half new construction and half remodels today. Most remodeling takes place from October through February and new construction from March through September. During the later part of the year, his crew is working double time because customers want fireplaces for the holidays. Customers overwhelmingly prefer gas fireplaces, but Scott does sell wood-burning stoves and fireplaces and pellet stoves.
As well as designing and installing fireplaces, Scott and his team will service and clean fireplaces, stoves, and chimneys. A maintenance check-up is especially important before starting up a fireplace for the fall/winter season. Lead times for service are kept at a minimum with a dedicated service crew. Most customers are waiting no more than two weeks for service, which is possibly the quickest turnaround in the area.
“Doing a good job, taking care of people in the right way, and knowing what we are doing are the values that drive our business,” Scott declares. “We’re all about making a house a home.”
Jeanne Engle is a freelance writer.
NARI member mentioned in this article:
The Fireplace Professionals, Inc.
2289 Wisconsin Highway 73
Cambridge, WI 53523