Patio & Hearth Blog

from Patio and Hearth Products Report

Leave a comment

Customers Love Cooking Demos—Even in Cold Weather

Brady Johnson, Northern Plains Distributing; and Carol Daus, Patio & Hearth Products Report


As someone who has lived in California for almost 30 years, I am impressed by barbecue aficionados who live in colder, northern climates. Oftentimes I find that these grilling fans are more zealous than those of us who live in places where removing snow or ice from a backyard grill is a non-issue. I encountered this type of enthusiasm a couple of weeks ago when I was in Minneapolis with my son (a high school senior) who was checking out potential colleges in the land of 10,000 lakes.

 While walking through the fashionable Uptown area, I stumbled upon a crowd watching a cooking demo of the Big Green Egg in front of Minneapolis’ independent cooking store, KitchenWindow. It was a blustery day just a week before Easter and temperatures barely hit 45 degrees. The cold spring weather (even by Minnesota standards) didn’t stop a crowd from gathering in front of the store as Brady Johnson, representative from Northern Plains Distributing (Fargo, North Dakota), cooked up a batch of juicy chicken wings on the Big Green Egg.

As the wind ripped through my jacket, I was amazed that the weather didn’t stop these locals from standing outside for a 15-minute cooking demo. Clearly, the sights and smells from chicken grilling were too irresistible to pass by. Some had never seen a Big Green Egg before and those who were familiar with it wanted to check it out more closely. The crowd became very engaged with one another as they exchanged tips and stories about grilling, which created a fun vibe outside the store. The demo clearly increased foot traffic into the store as shoppers sought out more information about the Big Green Egg and other products.

If a cooking demo is a success in cold climates, it can only be a hit in locations with milder weather. If you have never conducted a grilling demo or class, now is the perfect time to do so as we continue to experience warmer weather in the weeks and months ahead. And don’t forget: May is National Barbecue Month!

By  Carol Daus

Leave a comment

Life on the Road

RV life from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association

RVs made their debut not long after the car was invented.  Being able to travel from one place to another while having all the amenities of home has always appealed to many people.  And it’s no surprise that with the coming of new technology, RVs are getting fancier. Did you know that people are even installing fireplaces in their beloved RVs?

The two most practical choices for RVs are electric or gel fuel fireplaces. In the past, the flames of electric fireplaces did not look real, but technological advances have changed all of this and their authentic flames can now make an RV feel very cozy inside. Gel fuel fireplaces can be situated just about anywhere inside an RV because there are no wires to take into consideration. They can also operate during a power outage.

Along with fireplaces, RV owners are installing everything from whirlpool bathtubs and home-theater units to designer furniture and high-end appliances. RV owners also purchase portable barbecue grills and outdoor cooking accessories, since they prepare much of their meals on the road.

The Cuisinart Petit Gourmet Portable Tabletop Gas Grill perfect for travel.

Especially popular among baby boomers and retirees, RVs allow people to trade their home for a life on the road after raising kids and working.  Whether it’s following the Oregon Trail or Route 66, having an RV makes all these trips feasible and more comfortable. We’re pleased to see that RV owners are installing fireplaces and buying portable grills for their “homes away from home” and we look forward to seeing a lot more growth in this area!

By Amanda Daus

Leave a comment

Beyond Brick and Mortar

With the Internet playing such a major role today in how businesses reach their customers, it’s no surprise to now find companies without actual storefronts.  Instead, these companies rely on supplying quality products (along with savvy internet marketing and first-rate customer service) to attract potential customers.

John Webber, founder of StrataShops, realized that he could run a profitable furniture company without the storefront.  Having previous success selling hacky-sacks through the Web in the late 1990s, Webber realized that a similar  opportunity presented itself in the outdoor furniture industry. Why not have a web-based company that brings quality patio furniture to the people without the hassle of having an actual store?

NorthCape - Malibu Grande

NorthCape - Malibu Grande

StrataShops has partnered with high quality manufacturers (such as NorthCape International) and speedy distribution vendors to ensure that the furniture reaches their customers quickly and safely.

Webber emphasizes that customer service plays the biggest role when dealing with people through the Web, due to not having that personalized approach one would have with a brick-and-mortar store.  Cultivating a relationship with that customer is key in order to help them create their perfect outdoor oasis.

“Our goal is to help people kind of build that outdoor space. We have clients, who email us and live chat,” said John Webber in a recent article in Shore Magazine.

At the end of the day, StrataShops is like any other outdoor furniture business.  It relies on quality products and excellent customer service–only it does it all through the Web.

By Amanda Daus

Leave a comment

It’s time to face the grill ladies!

Sure we can bake chocolate cake on the spot and whip up spaghetti for the family, but what about barbecuing chicken? It’s time to stop living in fear of the grill ladies and start cooking in a way that has typically been seen as a “manly duty.”  Whether you’re a wife whose husband is out of town or a single lady craving a hamburger, using the grill should be seen as another cooking option instead of an obstacle.

Chicken cooking on the Companion Group's Moistly Grilled® cast-iron vessel.

In a recent article on the Huffington Post, Jennifer Gardner, a food and travel writer, realized that she could make just about anything in the kitchen, except she did not know how to use the outdoor grill.  In her piece she mentioned how the men in her life, whether it was a husband or father, always took over the barbecuing duties, thus leaving her behind in the kitchen away from the hot grill.  With the help of a Barbecue Boot Camp, Gardner spent a weekend learning the “ins and outs” of grilling.  Charcoal vs. Gas?  How do I know when the coals are ready? When will I know if the steak is done?  All of these questions were answered and Gardner emerged armed with the knowledge to challenge any seasoned griller.

Like any new task one sets out to accomplish, mastering grilling just takes a little bit of patience, practice and in this case, some sweat.  Any woman who wants to learn how to grill can master this skill.  At the Patio & Hearth Blog, we’ve collected some resources to help out those who want to add grilling to their list of cooking accomplishments!

Girls at the will help meet all your basic questions.

Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association has a wide range of information, from safety tips to popular accessories.

Grilling has tips on anything you would want to know.



By Amanda Daus

Leave a comment

About Patio & Hearth Blog


Patio & Hearth Products Report has launched Patio & Hearth Blog to provide another avenue to disseminate timely information on trends and developments in the casual furniture, hearth products and barbecue/grill industry. The ongoing blog postings will be written in a fun and conversational tone to help you keep pace with the industry, as well as find out what other retailers and dealers are doing to make their businesses successful. Thanks for stopping by!