John Hartwig, founder and CEO of Irvine, Calif-based Mont Alpi, has strategically positioned his company’s outdoor cooking products to cover niche areas of the marketplace that are currently not supported, or at best are unsatisfactorily supported. “We strive to produce quality products that make aspirational trends accessible,” he says.
Mont Alpi can help dealers capitalize on hot market trends, thanks to the right products and the right philosophy. Patio & Hearth Products Report (P&HPR) chatted with Hartwig to get a sense of those products and philosophies, and how they can help dealers.
P&HPR: What features, and/or relevant accessories set Mont Alpi grills apart from the competition?
John Hartwig: Starting at the top, our 805 Island offers all of the joys of a built-in outdoor kitchen without any of the hassle. It is pre-assembled using 304 Stainless steel and granite. It is strong and elegant, will not break the bank, and needs zero construction. It comes ready for propane or natural gas, which is another difficult inventory solution for retailers.
Our other unique product is the Mont Alpi Pizza Oven. Pizza ovens have become a hot trend. However, in reality they are big and cumbersome—not to mention the cost. Our insights led us to believe that consumers only use pizza ovens occasionally, and as such we have developed a stainless steel table top pizza oven, ideal for standing next to or even on the grill. It is a secondary outdoor appliance. It’s high quality, well priced, and great for patios, homes, and camping. To supplement our niche products, we also have a built-in/drop-in range, which is pre-prepared for natural gas or propane.
P&HPR: How was Mont Alpi started, and how do you handle distribution?
Hartwig: After 30 years in the Grill industry, my son and I have noticed saturation and commoditization and felt that this opened an opportunity to sell solution-based products, rather than follow the masses. We rely on distributors to sell our product to retailers. We are building a good network of distributors, but some states still need attention, and we are seeking distributors.
P&HPR: If you’re at liberty to say (or even hint at)…What products are you most excited about that are on the drawing board?
Hartwig: Our innovation pipeline is looking strong and we are eager to launch our range of outdoor refrigerators in the next 6 months. Again, these are focused on solutions for consumers.
P&HPR: What is your prediction for consumer demand in the short and long term? Why do you think it will be that way?
Hartwig: The grill industry will continue to grow in volume, but sadly the growth in volume will continue to drive quality and price down. As a grill manufacturer, distributor, and retailer, innovation/point of difference will be the place to win (Big Green Egg is a good example of this), followed by strong and moral brand principles. Consumers are entering the category daily. People love grilling! It is aspirational.
P&HPR: What marketing and dealer support programs do you offer to support dealers in their efforts?
Hartwig: We believe that online merchandising is critical in an age where influence is driven by reviews rather than ads. We will be building videos, blogs, and other smart engagements to build trust and excitement about Mont Alpi.
P&HPR: What is your target demographic?
Hartwig: Millennial families.
P&HPR: What is your best selling line of grills?
Hartwig: 805 Island is our best seller.
P&HPR: How was the reaction to Mont Alpi at HPBExpo in Atlanta?
Hartwig: It was overwhelming. We feel honored to have received such great reviews and responses from the attendees. It is our humble intention to surpass expectations as we grow.
After more than three decades in the competitive world of outdoor furniture, officials at Erwin and Sons Direct Imports, Woodstock, Georgia, have come up with significant innovations, all while helping their dealer partners succeed in business. Patio & Hearth Products Report (P&HPR) sat down with Erik Dych, vice president, Erwin and Sons, to get a sense of the company’s history, as well as what dealers can look forward to in the future.
P&HPR: How does your company’s considerable experience benefit consumers and/or dealers?
Erik Dych: Erwin and Sons has been in business for more than three decades. We began our business in the 1980s with indoor rattan furnishings, but in the late 1990s, we pioneered the manufacture of HDPE resin into all-weather furniture. So that’s some two decades of experience in the outdoor industry.
We have the track record and expertise it takes to offer consumers high quality, design innovation, a wide selection of finish and style, custom Leisureluxe™ cushions in over 400 performance fabrics, and a solid warranty, all at competitive pricing.
P&HPR: What furniture and/or relevant accessories have been particularly successful in 2017?
Erik: Contemporary sectional deep seating collections have been quite successful, judging by dealer reports. New finishes, weaves, and frame styles continue to be well-received and in high demand. We have begun incorporating mixed media within a number of collections, which is what the high-end consumer is seeking.
P&HPR: How are you balancing your product line offerings between traditional and contemporary offerings?
Erik: In the past few years, we have begun offering more contemporary designs and new materials to meet the fashion needs and wants of consumers. I’d say we are now at about a 50-50 split between contemporary and traditional. And out of our traditional offerings, about a third of them are considered more transitional in design.
P&HPR: What products are you most excited about for 2017?
Erik: We are venturing into more cutting edge modern design such as padded woven wicker, new weathered wood-like tabletops, and a new line of contemporary table bases.
P&HPR: What sets you apart from the competition in terms of product development?
Erik: It is the diversity and long term experience of the Erwin team and our vendor relationships working together to achieve the best products and service that value everyone’s best interests.
P&HPR: How do you support specialty retailers?
Erik: We serve such a wide diversity of our retailers that, for all intents and purposes, we consider every one of them a “specialty” retailer. We cater to single- and multiple- specialty stores, pool, patio and hearth shops, online dealers, garden and hardware centers. Each of them have unique consumer demographics. Geography, weather, locale, cultural style, and pricing each play an important role in their merchandising decisions.
Michael Stokes’ family home is situated in some of the most beautiful nature you will ever set your eyes on. Step outside and you are dwarfed by a perfect snow-capped mountain (can’t miss photograph below) and a grove of old-growth pines swaying in the winter breeze. Nature, it seems, has even permeated his walls and crept into every nook and designed cranny of the home. From the bear-fur bedspread, to the weathered wood floors, to the stone and even steel, with the unmistakable patina of nature + time written all over them.
We had the opportunity to have a conversation with Michael and his hearth designer, Eric Walden recently. You could call this entire home a collaboration of designers, a passion project, or simply, an act of nature.
Any foodie with a Kamado style grill will tell you the key to good BBQ is cookin’ low and slow. Any designer with a discerning eye will tell you that the key to a beautiful fireplace design is simple, clean lines.
Both were on display at The HPBExpo (Hearth Patio and Barbecue) earlier this month in Atlanta. If you happened to stop by booth #2819 you would have seen much of the latter as European Home rolled out some new fireplace designs as well as some iconic favorites.
To those fireplace retailers, architects, and designers who stopped by the booth — a sincere thank you! We were honored to have so many amazing conversations. Please scroll through the images below and see what the people at European Home have been up to.
Buoyed by enthusiastic responses at industry trade shows, including a 2017 Vesta Award for best electric fireplace, the FusionFire from Modern Flames is making its mark in a competitive landscape. Using “clean steam” technology, the Phoenix, Ariz-based company is making plans to roll out its FusionFire later on in 2017.
Patio & Hearth Products Report (P&HPR) recently sat down with Kris Richardson, president of Modern Flames, to learn more about the development of FusionFire.
P&HPR: What can you tell me about the development of FusionFire?
Kris Richardson, president, Modern Flames: Basically about two years ago, almost exactly, we started developing this new product with an engineering team. We originally thought it was going to take a single year, but it is now on year two.
The better part of the story is we met with a company in California that used to work for Disney, and they developed special effects or Disneyland. I started working with them to see if their technology could work in our industry, but realized very quickly that it could not, because their power requirements were way too much for a residential house, and the amount of water being used was way too much for a residential standard commercial application. So we had to completely redesign and redevelop the technology to offer the correct applications for our industry, and at the right cost.
P&HPR: Where did you go from there?
Richardson: That type of technology was very interesting to us. We realized we couldn’t use their technology because they had a patent. So we had to first get an exclusive licensing agreement with them, in order for us to spend money on development, and to hire new engineers. We got that done, and then we got some very talented engineers to start the development of this project.
P&HPR: Where does it stand now? Can specialty retailers buy or sell it?
Richardson: They [FusionFire units] are going to be available in the fall, and I know that’s kind of broad. Fall means September or October of this year. We are past the development phase, and we are starting production.
P&HPR: What was the goal when you began this journey?
Richardson: The goal of starting the company was to create the most realistic flame image in the electric fireplace industry. We saw a big opportunity because there is no one else who is doing it. In the last couple years, as we developed our products, we realized that we were very limited with our current technology. With LED lighting and a screen, we always had a two dimensional flame.
For us to achieve our goal of making the most realistic electric fireplace out there, we had to change the technology, and that’s when the search started. Having a three dimensional fire, we are able to create the same type of characteristics as a gas fire. We don’t have a two dimensional flame. That was why we started the search and ended up landing where we landed. The future is very bright for this technology. We have the hard part figured out. We can do almost anything with steam as you can do with gas, because it has the same type of characteristics.
Even customers who have the best outdoor cooking and leisure features can have their good time ruined by too many bugs. Savvy retailers can capitalize with the right insect repellent products on hand. The Not In My Backyard™ collection has several different sales-boosting options.
Insect repellent products are a natural accessory, but proper marketing is essential. Patio & Hearth Products Report sat down with officials at The Companion Group to get a better sense of how retailers can succeed with these products.
Patio & Hearth Products Report: How can retailers maximize the sales of these kinds of accessories?
The Companion Group: We love this line because it’s easy to cross-merchandise. The products can be displayed in a garden center, in a camping area, or in a grilling section. They could be in any of these areas.
The wearables (like the silicone band and the fabric band) could also be displayed by check-out because they’re priced and packaged for last-minute purchase. Retailers would also benefit from sharing the whole brand with customers since these products really complement each other. Customers could purchase the tabletop diffuser and place it on their porch table, while also wearing one of the bands to increase repelling power. There are so many ways to merchandise these products and boost sales across categories.
P&HPR: What is the biggest misconception (if one exists) about selling/marketing insect repellents?
The Companion Group: Many customers believe the only way to repel insects is by using sticky sprays or sprays containing DEET. That’s simply not true. We have a proprietary mix of geraniol, citronella, and peppermint oils that fights bugs in an all-natural way—and without coming into contact with your skin. For the wearable bands and the silicone clips, the essential oils are included in an insert that can be placed inside the band or clip. It’s one of the safest ways to protect yourself and your family from bug bites.
Another thing we noticed while developing these products was that customers are used to buying bulky insect-repellent products. There are plenty of large, clunky insect-repellent candles out there. We wanted to offer something that gets the job done first and foremost, but also fits into the environment where it’s being used. Our tabletop diffusers come in a range of appealing colors and enhance whatever outdoor space they’re placed in.
P&HPR: You mention a virtual reality experience “around the brand.” What is that?
The Companion Group: Innovation really runs in our blood, and we believe in innovating in every aspect of the business, including how we promote our products. We’ve had our eye on virtual reality and discovered that it’s perfect for promoting an outdoor line like Not In My Backyard™.
For our trade shows, we will be offering a VR experience to anyone who’s interested in learning more about Not In My Backyard™. The experience will give people a sense of what you’ll get out of using the products as compared to venturing outdoors without any bug protection. We don’t want to give too much more away, but if you’re at HPBExpo, the International Home and Housewares Show or the National Hardware Show, please stop by and see for yourself!
Products under the Not In My Backyard™ banner are:
- Travel Handheld Folding Bug Zapper with Protective Cover
- Tabletop Diffuser Lantern with Essential Oil Inserts
- Citronella Sticks / 15 pack
- Filled Galvanized Pails with Essential Oils / 2 pack
- Outdoor Tealights with Essential Oils / 20 pack
- Silicone Wristband with 6 Refills
- Go Anywhere Silicone Clip with 6 Refills
- Silicone Wristband and Go Anywhere Silicone Clip with 6 Refills
- Fabric Wearable Band with 6 Refills
- 6-Pack Essential Oil Insert Refills
- 12-Pack Essential Oil Insert Refills
- 6-Pack Essential Oil Slow-Release Insert Refills
- Silicone Wearable Band and 12 pc Refill Pack (Shelf Display)