Roy K. Allen bought Thermo-Rite Manufacturing in 1985, taking the reins of the respected Ohio-based company that began in 1942. Back in the 1940s, Thermo-Rite Manufacturing originated the tempered glass fireplace enclosure. In fact, Thermo-Rite was awarded the first United States Patent for tempered glass fireplace enclosures—a patent they held exclusively from 1946 to 1963.
Since 1985, Roy Allen has preserved and grown the company’s considerable legacy. Patio & Hearth Products Report sat down with Roy to discuss the company’s past and bright future.
Patio & Hearth Products Report (P&HPR): What are some other key elements of the company’s success and longevity?
Roy K. Allen: The founder, John Lydle, was creative, and a very high quality minded person. He not only invented the product, but it was a product that was in the finest homes in America. For many years, the glass doors were made out of solid brass, mostly using clear glass, although later on, bronze glass and gray glass came into play. But it started out as all solid brass.
P&HPR: How have tastes/preferences evolved?
Allen: Back in 1990, we were still 90 percent solid brass. But the buying public changed, and solid brass became not so popular. Today, we are about 85 percent aluminum—mostly painted with earth tone color. We have 15 heritage colors. Then we have about 12 percent quarter-inch steel, and the balance is a combination of solid brass and aluminum.
P&HPR: What are some of the key products that are selling well and design features that are popular?
Allen: First of all, we are about 60 percent custom doors. We make one of a kind, and we make them from a template that is sent in by our customers. We sell these doors all over the United States, Canada, England, Spain, and Norway. What makes us unique is that we have a high-end custom line of door products, and we have about 24 different SKUs of products featuring different types and models.
P&HPR: How has the company managed to stay successful for all these years?
Allen: One of the things that has allowed for the longevity of Thermo-Rite has been our creative and new designs and new products. For example, about 20 years ago, all glass doors had a frame around the glass. We created what we call a clear view door. We took all the frames off of the glass so that the homeowner would be able to see the fireplace without seeing any of this metal around the glass. That was probably one of the major changes in the glass door industry in the last 40 years.
More recently, for example this past year, we added a group of doors to what we call our Artisan series, and here again we’ve done something completely different. We’ve created a door that has rounded corners on the top. We sold doors with arches on them for years, and that’s a complete arch. This is a door that softens the area in a room with the rounded corners.
P&HPR: When did dealers get a chance to see that?
Allen: We introduced it at the show this past year, and it was an instant hit. So we’ve done that, and then we’ve also come out with a new door that kind of has an old world gothic type look. Both of these doors are quarter inch steel type doors. And all of our custom quarter inch steel doors are painted one of 15 different heritage colors, so customers can select a color. In fact, they can go on our website, pick the color, and transpose it onto a doorframe of their choosing. That’s something that we just updated on our website. We upgraded it in a big way.
P&HPR: For dealers who are considering carrying your products, what are some benefits that dealers would enjoy?
Allen: Our creativity and new products is something that dealers like to show their customers and a new dealer is going to look to us for that. We’re the only glass door company in the industry that actually has three different doors that we carry in inventory at all times. And we carry those in six or eight sizes, depending on the door. They can call us and in less than two days, and we can ship that product to them. So there’s a major interest level for our dealers and for prospective new dealers.
We’ve been around, and I guess you could call us the grandfather of the industry. We’ve been around so long, and we have so many skilled people internally. For example, we have a great customer care department on the phone that can literally tell someone how to install a glass fireplace door. That’s invaluable to dealers and installers around the country, and we are known for that. Our reputation is one of being above average in that regard. All of this is a credit to our invaluable employees.