Patio & Hearth Blog

from Patio and Hearth Products Report

Leave a comment


Tonyby Tony Ramos

Those who have played high-school sports will tell you that there was at least one moment when a coach said or did something that had a positive impact that has stayed with them for their entire lives. My moment came during my junior year of high school.

As the third-string varsity quarterback, I spent more time on the bench than did the large jug of water (GatoradeTM was not around when I was in high school). To give you some idea of how bad I was, the only reason that I wasn’t the fourth-string quarterback is that only three of us had tried out for the position. One Friday night, our team was defeating its opponent easily. By halftime, the game was essentially over.

Our second-string quarterback, a sophomore, played the game’s entire second half. In California, high-school football’s rules state that a participant who plays at least two quarters of a varsity game is ineligible to play in the junior varsity (JV) game the next day. Therefore, I was assured of starting the JV game on Saturday.

During the fourth quarter of the JV game, with our team on the 20-yard line, I dropped back to pass—and suddenly saw an opening in front of me through which you could have driven a Mack® truck. Tucking the ball into my left side, I took off for the end zone. As I crossed the 5-yard line, ready to score and put my team ahead, I was tackled on the 1-inch line (neither the 1-yard line nor the 1-foot line, but the 1-inch line) by the right cornerback. On the next play, our running back took the ball into the end zone, and we eventually won the game.

Richard Warren Olson

Richard Warren Olson

Walking through the locker room after the game, I passed the coaching office, where all of the varsity coaches were assembled. One of the coaches called me into the office. “Hey, Ramos: I hear you almost scored,” Coach Richard Warren (Rich) Olson, our offensive coordinator, yelled. “Yeah,” I replied, and I shared with the coaches how I had been stopped on the 1-inch line. In a matter-of-fact way, Olson said, “Ramos, if you had really wanted it, you would have scored.” If looks could kill, Olson would immediately have turned into a pile of dust.

I spent the rest of that season, the next (senior) season, and many years thereafter secretly hating the words that had been spoken by Olson. At the same time, I also discovered that whether in the classroom, at the gym, on the running trail, or in the workplace, I started to put forth greater effort.

I spent more time studying, pushed through extra repetitions at the gym, ran through (not to) the invisible finish line of a run, and worked harder and longer at my job than I previously had. I also developed a more competitive spirit in all aspects of my life. Whether I would admit it to myself or not, in the back of my mind, ever present, were the words spoken by Olson.

Once I got to the point in life when I could handle the truth, I suddenly realized that Olson did not speak those words to belittle me, to put me down, or to demean me. Instead, Olson took the time for a teaching moment with a third-string player, planting the seed that would help propel a backup quarterback always to put forth his best effort, to leave nothing on the field, and to strive for excellence—win or lose.

As business owners, it’s important to be open and honest with your employees and always to seek their suggestions on what you and the company can do to improve, according to Joanne Sujansky, PhD, a management consultant (writing in Specialty Retail Report) who helps business growth and profitability by creating and sustaining what she calls a productive and profitable workplace.

The Retail Advocacy Group teaches retailers “to tell the truth—both good and bad.” Even if you need to deliver bad news or enforce standards, you will always get better results if you are candid, respectful, and truthful. John Morrish, writing for Management Today, reports that being honest is the starting point for running an honest organization. He quotes motivational speaker Larry Johnson: “The worst truth always beats the best lie.”

Olson (a former quarterback at Washington State University), after spending five years coaching high-school football, went on to coach at the college and professional levels. His college coaching career included California State University–Fresno, the University of Southern California, the University of Arkansas, Southern Methodist University, the University of Miami, and Arizona State University. In the NFL, Olson coached for the Seattle Seahawks, the Washington Redskins, the Arizona Cardinals, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Minnesota Vikings.

As for me, I decided that I was probably better suited for a career in journalism and publishing than for one as a quarterback. Not only was I better at journalism than at playing football, but there are a lot fewer injuries in journalism and publishing than there are in football. Along the way, any small amount of success that I have achieved in my personal and business life has been due, in part, to Olson and to his speaking the truth to me. Thanks, Coach!

Tony Ramos is the publisher/founder of Patio & Hearth Products Report.

Tony can be reached via e-mail:

Leave a comment

Product Launches at Homecrest

September 2015 marks yet another dynamic product launch at Homecrest. The company’s deep seating complement is expanded with the introduction of Liberty, a timeless collection featuring mission styling and luxurious DreamCoreTM cushion comfort.

In Sling and Woven Dining, the new Elements is a transitional collection that brings together clean lines and elegant contours. The popular Grace collection is expanded to include a full range of modular pieces, while the Lana spring collection includes exciting new seating surfaces, and Havenhill Cushion has grown to include the ever-popular specialty pieces. 

A number of dynamic introductions to dining and fire table collections turns up the heat for inspired outdoor spaces. 

Grace_ModularNew Introductions For 2016 
Grace Modular
New for 2016, Homecrest is pleased to introduce the Grace Modular collection. With a wide selection of modular units in different orientations and sizes, Grace can be scaled to your space, and pieces can be freely moved to suit the needs of the moment. Perfect for entertaining and yet beautifully suited to quiet relaxation, the luxurious comfort of Grace Modular combines with elegant styling and exceptional utility to create a welcoming atmosphere of gracious outdoor living.

HavenhillHavenhill Deep Seating with DreamCoreTM Cushions
Echoing the gentle flares and subtle curves of the fashion-forward Havenhill dining collection, Homecrest is pleased to introduce Havenhill Deep Seating collection. Generously proportioned and exceptionally comfortable with its new DreamCore™ cushion, Havenhill allows for luxurious relaxation even in smaller spaces.

Liberty_DeepSeatingLiberty Deep Seating by Homecrest
Drawing inspiration from the beautiful craftsmanship of an earlier era in our country’s history, Liberty’s timeless design and unparalleled comfort will enhance outdoor spaces for generations to come. Create an environment of relaxation and serenity with a full complement of deep seating pieces, and carry design themes through to your dining area with Liberty Barrel Chairs.

Liberty_Barrel_ChairThe Liberty Barrel Chair
This iconic introduction hearkens back to early days in Homecrest’s history. This richly updated piece features the wraparound comfort of our traditional barrel chair and the unsurpassed comfort of Homecrest’s industry-leading coil spring swivel rocker, while incorporating timeless design elements of our Liberty Deep Seating collection. As a front porch vignette for two, or elegant dining for a crowd, the Liberty Barrel Chair will create an engaging ambiance that celebrates the past and the future.

Elements_SlingElements Sling Seating Collection
Uniquely transitional and highly functional, Homecrest is pleased to introduce the Elements Sling collection. Subtle curves and simple angles combine to create a collection that can be artfully classic or freshly modern, depending on your design sensibilities and your outdoor space. Available in low back, high back and balcony seating, Elements has the added versatility of complementing a wide range of deep seating styles with ease and grace.

LanaMetalSlatNew for 2016 Lana Metal Slat & Mesh
The contemporary lines of our Lana collection have a fun-loving appeal that suits the décor of any backyard or patio. This collection is enhanced by its durability and ease of maintenance, yet maintains unexpected comfort. Check out the entire Lana collection at

Aurora_Fire_TablesNew Aurora Fire Tables | Check out the new Timber Series
Aurora Natural Series is available in Homecrest’s Stonegate and the new Timber Table Series for 2016. Available in 19” coffee and 24.5” chat table heights with a powerful 65,000 BTU burner, the amazing heat will extend your outdoor season while Aurora’s beauty creates an atmosphere of relaxation and conversation.

Valero_FirepitsValero Fire Pits| Natural Series & Woven | New Heights for 2016
Homecrest’s Valero fire table is now available in the intimate 19” coffee height for 2016, along with 24.5”chat, dining and balcony heights. Valero fire tables are available with all Homecrest Natural Series table tops; and softly curved side panels are available in aluminum, which may be powder-coated to match or contrast with your frame, as well as in 5000-hour resin wicker in Coco or Hampton, according to your design preferences.

Timber_TablesYou Love the new Timber Tables by Homecrest
Cast from beautiful reclaimed wood tables, the Timber collection is at once on-trend and timeless. Using the same technology we use in all Natural Series tables, we are able to achieve a look that is marvelously realistic while retaining the outstanding outdoor performance characteristics you expect from Homecrest. Available in Sequoia and Drift colors, choose from a wide range of sizes in dining, occasional and balcony heights, or warm up fireside with the new Aurora Timber 42” square fire tables.

Mode_TablesMode Tables –Contemporary Dining at a Variety of Heights
With clean lines and contemporary inspiration, Mode sets a new standard in casual chic. Aluminum panels in Onyx float over a base frame in the color of your choice, creating a space that is elegant in its simplicity and fresh in its styling. Select from a wide variety of heights and sizes to complement the fashionable seating of your choice.

DreamCoreTM Cushions by Homecrest
Whether traditional, transitional or contemporary in design, Homecrest’s deep seating collections are at once beautiful and incredibly comfortable. We use innovative techniques and top-quality materials to ensure that beauty and comfort last for decades.

The DreamCore™ cushion core begins with High Resilient furniture grade foam for the interior of the cushion. High Resilient foam provides exceptional durability and longevity, while offering an outstanding level of comfort. Unlike Viscoelastic foam (memory foam), the cell structure of High Resilient foam is less uniform and more random than conventional foams, which creates stronger structure, excellent elasticity and increased supporting force, thereby providing support, resilience, and ultimately, unparalleled comfort.

Leave a comment

The Boys of Summer are Heading into the Home Stretch

by Martin Roberts, Martin Roberts Design

Imagine all that would have to change if baseball became a year-round sport across the country. For one thing, peanuts, hotdogs and Cracker Jacks wouldn’t sound particularly appealing in December in any stadium located beyond the South. For another, players would probably have plenty to say about lost down-time, and increased risk of injury caused by continual play. Clearly, for such a game-plan to work, plenty about America’s pastime would need to be rethought.

Impulse buy glassware.

Impulse buy glassware.

It’s the kind of conundrum currently faced by our industry’s own boys of summer: Patio stores. Once a purely seasonal business, with retailers either closed half the year or morphing into purveyors of holiday trees and decorations, the outdoor market has been radically changing into a year-round undertaking. Not because of anything the players have done, but because of the fans.

Stressed-out, over-worked consumers today seek the lifestyles they experience on vacation (on the off-chance they can actually take one), or the relaxed environments they see in the movies or on TV, or even while surfing their iPads and magazines while awaiting a doctor’s appointment. They long to escape from sitting behind a screen all day, to literally stop and smell the roses. They want to experience the mouthwatering aromas they remember from childhood cook-outs, to squeeze toasted marshmallows between chocolate and graham crackers, to remember the sweet-tart zing of ice-cold tea and lemonade on a hot day.

Striking Out

Food stuffs in Garden Patio Store.

Food stuffs in Garden Patio Store.

Frankly, we’re failing them. When it comes to the outdoor category, retailers have not been keeping pace with consumers’ needs and desires. “She” loves the idea of gathering family and friends together in a manageable and healthy way, whether by the pool, in the sunroom, or around the outdoor kitchen on the patio. “He” enjoys assuming the role of bartender and barbeque chef, but seeks more recognition and creative ways to perform with his peers. But, nowhere can they find all they need to make their ideal outdoor space a reality.

Certainly, garden centers offer some products, but are typically populated by diminishing numbers of older consumers and are closing at alarming rates. Big box operations mainly focus on cheap imports, and the local furniture retailer doesn’t understand how to offer something different from the mass merchants. Meanwhile, the appliance store can only fulfill part of the need. No one yet knows how to compete with the Internet, and astoundingly, many patio stores are still closed for half the year. So what’s a shopper to do?

Events Calendar for winter traffic in Patio Store.

Events Calendar for winter traffic in Patio Store.

This opportunity to rethink and reshape an entire category of consumer products is similar to the challenge my team faced in the early ‘90s, when book stores were not providing consumers with the experiences they desired. We changed the game at Barnes & Noble back then by adding seating areas and cafés, essentially creating “a third place,” that wasn’t home or work, but a relaxing escape. It’s a form of retail that has worked well for more than 25 years.

As I see it, we’re standing at much the same place in the indoor/outdoor category now. The solution is to create a branded web and retail store that provides a seamless shopping, browsing and entertaining environment that provides consumers with products, services, a fulfilling visit in a year-round “greenhouse.”

Cafe in Garden and Patio Store.

Cafe in Garden and Patio Store.

Knocking it out of the Park
Visualize, if you will, a building retrofit from a distressed retail space or converted industrial space. Even a ground-up steel pre-fab building would work with minimal finishes and concrete floors, and roller shutters for transition space. Picture a stimulating environment with salvaged architectural pieces, repurposed woods and metal objects with innovatively displayed products. Add an indoor/outdoor café or coffee house to encourage morning and lunch traffic, and longer “dwell time” in-store, with offerings that speak to the specific season (all of them!).

Inside, merchandise ranges from indoor/outdoor furniture to appliances and outdoor kitchens with built-in wall ovens for year round use along with products for sale from key luxury brands. Gift items could include spa products, planters and pots with terrariums and appropriate tools. And oh, the services! Shoppers may choose from interior and exterior design, garden planning, outdoor kitchen design and consulting, project management and certified suppliers, and a host of classes and exciting events aimed at all age groups and demographics. All are continually touted via the online blog and social media. Can you already see the post focused on teaching kids how to build terrariums? How about the class on setting outdoor pavers or cooking the Thanksgiving turkey outside, or the garden tea supporting a local charity?

It’s a vision for a new kind of outdoor store, an innovative place offering everything under one roof, year-round. In many ways it will require changing the way we look at the outdoor category and it will take committed management to implement. It’s also an idea whose time is come that could change the way the game is played entirely. All I can say is, “Swing, batter, batter, swing!”

Leave a comment

The HammockSource Offers Comfort With a Commitment to the Environment

Fiberfill is recycled plastic soda bottles.

Fiberfill is recycled plastic soda bottles.

GREENVILLE, NC – Long known for its gorgeous hammocks, The HammockSource has also quietly kept a sustainable business model that seeks to get the most out of its materials. John D. Powell, marketing manager at Greenville, NC-based The HammockSource, says the environmentally-friendly efforts started when company founder Walter R. Perkins, Jr, simply could not afford to waste resources.

Light in the company warehouse production facilities comes courtesy of ultra-energy efficient bulbs.

Light in the company warehouse production facilities comes courtesy of ultra-energy efficient bulbs.

Walter Perkins III, his son, says he loves the outdoors and wants it to be around to fish and enjoy nature with his sons so the tradition is carried on,” says Powell. “This mindset has infused itself into the corporate culture. Part of it is economics, stemming from the earliest days of the company, and part of it is to try and make sure the world’s resources are around to enjoy.”
Minimizing waste, conserving energy, and recycling are now built into every facet of the company’s operations, and it’s something that dealers and consumers are proud to support. “While we have been doing this for many decades, it is rewarding that in this day of increased ecological awareness, our efforts are being received favorably by consumers,” says Powell. “It [environmental awareness] is a constant corporate directive. The daily business model is to continually search for opportunities to repurpose and minimize waste.”
Shavings from HDPE lumber are recycled.

Shavings from HDPE lumber are recycled.

The company’s original Pawleys Island Furniture is an example of this philosophy—constructed of HDPE lumber and the line is growing. According to Powell, five new pieces have been introduced for the 2016 season, and “the word from our R&D department is to expect a project to be ready for the Chicago Casual Market later in September.”

Leave a comment

Fire & Hearth Accessories: The Importance Of In-store Visibility

Hearth_Photo_1VANCOUVER, WA – A fire and hearth is the centerpiece of any home or garden. However, garden fire pits, in home wood burning stoves and cooking stoves aren’t just stand alone lifestyle elements. Whether it’s replacement glass, aesthetically complimentary hearth mats, replacement gas fittings, or even just a few new gas logs, stove and fire pit buyers consistently demonstrate that they prefer to purchase indoor and outdoor fire and hearth units from dealers who also stock the kind of accessories which they are likely to need.

Accidents happen. Stove glass sometimes gets broken. Likewise, routine gas safety checks occasionally identify valves and fittings which are in need of replacement. The problem? Your local fire and hearth dealer doesn’t actually stock the parts you require. Instead, you either have to find a a better equipped dealer who does, or attempt to get in touch with your fire pit or stove’s original manufacturer.

HearthPhoto_2Hearth parts and accessories therefore play integral, but often under appreciated parts in the ultimate success of any kind of stove dealership and/or fire and hearth retail outlet. Investors in such iconic lifestyle elements in their homes, don’t want to have to run around town just in order to maintain their particular fire or hearth unit. Moreover, contentious consumers are more likely to purchase a fire or hearth in the first place, from dealers who stock a visible range of accessories and aftercare products.

HearthPhoto_4At Hearth Distribution, we therefore pride ourselves on being able to better equip fire, hearth, and fire pit dealers, with not just a a full range of iconic fire and hearth units, but a full range of parts and accessories also. Even better, Hearth Distribution offer revolutionary low prices, and because we buy from the U.S., we can guarantee faster delivery than any of our stove and stove parts distribution competitors.
In fact, Hearth Distribution offers: • same day shipping on all orders; • no minimum purchases; • factory direct pricing; and • year round early buyer discounts.

Moreover, at Hearth Distribution, we not only stock all our own inventory, but we actively encourage feedback from dealers in regard to what parts, accessories, and even full fire and hearth units they would like to see us include in our catalog.

HearthPhoto_6Showcasing a stove or patio garden pit is a lot like showcasing a new car. People often have a few essential accessories and maintenance products in mind before they even enter your fire pit dealership in the first place. Make sure then, to stock the accessories that your customers want in order to secure bigger sales and ultimately better loyalty in the process.

YouTube Videos

Leave a comment

Poly-Wood Breaks the Mold with Collaborative Culture and Brand New Material

Select Natural Table-BenchWhen you walk into the offices at Poly-Wood in Syracuse, IN, you feel an energy in the air. Their open concept layout brings departments together and promotes a highly collaborative culture. “It’s not just me, because I’m a leader, making the decisions,” explains Megan Pierson, director of Sales and Marketing. “If it involves employees, we want them to be a part of decisions.”

Poly-Wood believes this culture is one of the keys to their success; it’s charismatic and built on a genuine trust for one another.  “Our customers like dealing with people who are smart, well-trained and love where they work,” continues Pierson. “We’re inspired through sharing and implementing new ideas which ultimately results in the best product and experience for our customers.”

Select 6-Top NaturalPoly-Wood is truly a group of innovators reinventing more than the typical business model. With their new line, Select, the star of the show is the material. “We’ve explored outside the paradigm of what is being done with all-weather materials,” described Doug Rassi, co-founder and president, “and have created something that has never been done before. We’ve given this material genuine warmth and authenticity; it’s something you want to live with.”

Although Select may have characteristics of wood, it’s not aiming to imitate wood or any other natural element. Because of this uniqueness, it’s difficult to fully explain the emotional connection that happens once you experience Select. Your first instinct is to reach out and physically touch it, to feel the luxury. To trace with your fingers the distinct markings and intentional imperfections that Poly-Wood has welcomed and embraced. Each piece of lumber is a hand-finished, one of a kind, work of art where no detail has been overlooked.

Select 4-Top RosewoodTrue to all Poly-Wood products, Select is made in the USA with a proprietary blend of mostly recycled materials. It’s backed by an impressive 20-year warranty and offers customers the freedom that comes without upkeep; no waterproofing, painting or staining. Each Select piece also receives a hand-applied UV coated finish so that as it weathers, the sun begins to richen the colors.

From providing an exceptional culture for employees to pioneering reliable and stunning outdoor furniture, Poly-Wood is truly breaking the mold. In production, their technology makes it possible for employees to quickly assemble and package each piece of furniture.  When customers choose the “Buy Now” option, that furniture ships the next day with 99.8% accuracy. Pierson added, “We cherish the ideals of creating great customer experiences with a focus on the present age expectation of fast and painless transactions and delivery.”

Leave a comment

Contemporary and Classics – What Pride Is All About

Pride_Photo_1From July 14-16, the Chicago Merchandise Mart was a-buzz with anticipation for casual furnishings and accessories introductions from Pride Family Brands. On the 15th floor, the Pride Family Brands’ showroom saw a steady stream of current and future customers introduced to “What Pride Is All About.” Pride Family Brands hosted a record number of casual furnishings retailers who collectively provided positive feedback on the company’s contemporary and classic designs.

Pride_Photo_2“A great deal of time, energy and hard work over the past year has gone into creating the products for the markets and when our efforts are met with such positive response as was the case at the Preview Market, it is gratifying to everyone in our organization,” Steve Lowsky, CEO, Pride Family Brands. “Meeting design as well as marketing demands of our retailers is our primary goal as they are the reason for all we do including product development to customer service.”

Pride_Photo_3Standouts recognized within the new product introductions included the exciting contemporary collections – Eclipse and Park Place. The collections represented luxury elements with modern appeal. Within the 2016 Park Place Collection, Pride Family Brands brings sleek lines, modern seating, aluminum durability and performance fabrics to create a fresh and contemporary appeal.

Pride_PhotoWith an attractive angular frame design and floating seat, the Eclipse Collection is a definite show stopper. Expertly engineered with multiple banding layers and sleigh legs, the Eclipse captures a luxury contemporary look.

From the classical design vein, Villa Bianca. Belle Époque and La Reserve were introduced featuring decorative features, intricate cast elements and open styling.

Pride_Photo_5“We see the Park Place as a real winner with its clean and crisp lines,” said Mary Mann, Laacke and Joys, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.” The Villa Bianca is also exciting as it will have wide customer appeal with a design that will be of interest to a broad range of customers.”

Pride_Photo_6Visitors to the Pride showroom were met with five complete collections and nearly 100 individual new items from furnishings to accessories. A Live Edge dining table top was a show stopper and new Platinum and Jasmine finishes highlighted the contemporary styles.

During opening night of the market, Pride Family Brands hosted a cocktail reception for market-goers that included music, hor d’oeuvres and a preview of all introductions.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 258 other followers