Keith Richardson talks about the start of his family business Arizona Fireplaces, the appeal of fireplaces in a hot climate and the Net Zero ICONIC House.
Keith Richardson, President of Arizona Fireplaces and AF Distributors, thinks the best place to make family memories in your home is around the fireplace. He joined ICONIC LIFE Publisher Renee Dee on ICONIC Hour to discuss the story behind building his brand and positioning Arizona Fireplaces as the industry leader in sustainability and innovation.
“Most people think we’re a small mom-and-pop fireplace company, which we try to maintain that way of doing business, but we have six large warehouses full of fireplaces and barbecues,” Richardson says. “Ironically, Arizona has a very hot climate and there’s more fireplaces in Phoenix in our warehouses than there is anywhere in the western United States.”
“Sometimes it’s a little bit strange, we’re installing fireplaces in 108 degree weather, but at the end of day, people want fireplaces and love putting fire in their homes and we love what we do,” he added.
How did Richardson and his family get their start in the fireplace industry?
“My dad and my mom, Don and Debbie Richardson, started this company back in 1983 selling fasteners, nails and hangers to contractors during the construction boom of the mid-late 80s,” Richardson recounts. “It was nothing to do with fireplaces.”
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“Most people think we're a small mom-and-pop fireplace company, which we try to maintain that way of doing business, but we have six large warehouses full of fireplaces and barbecues,” Richardson says. “Ironically, Arizona has a very hot climate and there's more fireplaces in Phoenix in our warehouses than there is anywhere in the western United States.”
“These framers would buy nail guns from my dad and some of them had a hard time paying on time and my dad said, ‘Hey, I’m a small business man, I’ve got a newborn named Keith that I need to provide food for.’ And so the contractors and the framers—who just absolutely adored my mom and dad—they said ‘Well, Don, I don’t get to draw from the builders until the framing stage is complete and the framing stage isn’t complete until the fireplace is installed.’”
“At this time the fireplace supplier was always behind, always late, which, ironically, slowed my dad from getting paid for the nails,” he added
And so Richardson’s father turned to his mother and said, “it looks like we’re getting in the fireplace business.”
“Here we are, selling fireplaces in Phoenix 40 years later,” Richardson says.
Working together as a family in the fireplace business, Richardson and his brother look up to their parents and try to emulate their way of live.
“My mom and dad, they’re very humble, they live in the same house that I was born and raised in 1984, so that tells you that they’re real people,” Richardson says. “We have six large warehouses full of inventory and are a very financially stable business because of the sacrifices and the decisions they’ve made over time, so we couldn’t be happier as a family and we’re very fortunate that the business is healthy,” he says.
Under Keith’s direction, Arizona Fireplaces has grown to a strong and energetic team of over 280 talented employees who have changed the hearth and outdoor living industry.
“We also do a little bit of BBQ grills, outdoor living and outdoor heating. We do a whole bunch of stuff and that’s the reason we have so many warehouses because we distribute all those different products throughout the southwest United States.”
Whether you have an indoor fireplace or an outdoor grill, fire provides a great focal point for gathering with loved ones.
“Fire is something that’s mesmerizing, and you want that, especially when you’re entertaining or even if it’s just your significant other having a glass of wine or a cup of coffee in the morning during the cold months,” Richardson says. “I call it the heart of the home. Think about all the memories of when you’re growing up, when you were younger, at least for me, I remember always being around the fire, opening up presents in the morning or opening up the stockings the night before.”
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“Not only does it bring back memories of family, but it’s also about making current memories with my existing family, and most importantly, just as a visual aesthetic in the home,” he added.
Popular at Arizona Fireplaces now are linear, electric and gas fireplaces, with many exciting advances in technology and features.
“Ten years ago, electric fireplaces were not overly realistic, they did not look like a real fireplace,” Richardson says. “They’ve come a long way, producing a real flame pattern.”
While electric fireplaces are continuing to improve, Richardson says look to natural gas fireplaces for the cleanest air in your home.
“Gas is so clean burning when you compare it to wood, there’s been a big push here in Maricopa County for many years to replace wood burning fireplaces with gas and or electric,” Richardson says. “I’m a big advocate of natural gas.”