Brady Baus hopes to set the fireplace business ablaze in central Kansas.
Baus, 28, is ambitious about his plans for Chimney & Stone Specialists and doesn’t mind saying so. He bought the 38-year-old McPherson business April 1 and has also become the exclusive dealer in Wichita for Heat & Glo gas fireplaces.
With those two components, he thinks he can capture a significant share of new construction and remodeling jobs involving fireplaces, free-standing stoves and inserts.
“We’ve kind of blended our techniques and now we’re just tackling every aspect of the fireplace business,” he said.
Baus said he first worked part time in the fireplace business as a teenager with his father, Alan Baus, who’s been in it 30 years with several employers and who now works for his son.
“I kind of started at the bottom as a grunt, running parts, doing little odds and ends,” Brady said.
As a student at Wichita State University, Baus worked in the fireplace department at Fahnestock, which specializes in plumbing, electric and heating and air conditioning work. Eventually he ran that department.
Baus spent seven years with Fahnestock before buying Chimney & Stone.
“Their owner wanted to sell, and I was not financially ready to do that, but I was able to put it together with a little help from my family,” he said.
Baus has spent the past year working for Chimney & Stone, learning the business from its owner, who is retiring, as the sale was completed.
Baus said he took over the Heat & Glo dealership from Fahnestock, which wanted to get out of that part of its business. He said he remains on good terms with his former employer and is using part of Fahnestock’s showroom in Wichita until he can set up his own. He hopes to find a space downtown.
Chimney & Stone employs six people, including Baus and his father. Brady Baus says he plans to serve central Kansas from Emporia to Hays, from the Oklahoma line to Nebraska. New construction accounts for about 40 percent of his fireplace business. The company sells to builders and installs the fireplaces to comply with warranty requirements.
“These builders are people that my dad formed relationships with,” Baus said. “They’ve seen me since I was 18, 19 years old.”
The remainder of his fireplace business is selling and installing units in existing homes, often as part of extensive remodeling projects.
Chimney & Stone handles four major types of fireplaces – wood-burning, gas, electric and pellet – with in-wall, stand-alone, interior and exterior versions available. Gas is the most popular choice, and Heat & Glo, which makes gas products, “is our bread and butter,” Baus said. “They’re really awesome because they can hit so many price points, from $1,500 to $10,000, $12,000 or $15,000.”
Electric fireplaces, some featuring LED lights and touch pad controls, are overtaking wood in popularity. Outdoor units are another trend, as people fix up their backyards, decks and patios rather than move, he said. Other brands carried by Chimney & Stone include Harman, Lopi and Fireplace Xtrordinair.
“My business philosophy is to provide homeowners with high-quality, high-efficiency products that are going to last a long time,” Baus said. “I’m not going to sell something cheap to make a buck.”
Chimney & Stone also makes and sells manufactured stone, which Baus said comprises about 20 percent of his overall business. Made of aggregate concrete blend and dyed so that each piece is slightly different, the stones come in about 25 versions, from canyon stone to fieldstone. The stone is usually used around fireplaces, in accent walls in homes or as a decorative exterior touch.
“It’s cheaper than regular stone, and lighter, so it’s a little easier to work with,” Baus said. “I’ve sold a lot of do-it-yourself projects. It’s like tiling.”
When he bought Chimney & Stone, Baus also acquired something of a landmark – the giant chimney sweep who stands aside Interstate 35 outside McPherson advertising the business. Four of Baus’ employees are trained as chimney sweeps. He offers a 25 percent discount on the service this time of year.
“I’ll have two guys doing five sweeps a day, all summer long,” he said. “We try to push people to sweep in the spring and summer; that way we’re not overwhelmed in the winter.”
Baus was working on his master’s degree at Wichita State before deciding his future was in the fireplace business. He said he’s friendly with most of his competitors but thinks he’ll be around after they have retired to a comfortable chair around a fireplace somewhere.
“I plan on being the go-to guy for younger generations,” Baus said.
Now you know
Chimney & Stone Specialists
Address: 919 17th Ave., McPherson
Owner: Brady Baus