Warm Traditions Stove Shoppe has been keeping folks toasty with alternative heat sources for over two decades.
Tucked alongside the Danvers Rail Trail on Pine Street next to the building that houses Pete’s-A-Place, the specialty stove business owned by Bob Raucci is celebrating its 21st winter this year.
Despite rarely advertising and with few signs due to town bylaws, the business is still going strong under the careful guidance, and attention to quality, of Raucci.
Originally from Peabody, Raucci came into the Warm Traditions franchise by chance. As a longtime teacher at the Essex Agricultural School in Danvers, Raucci was simply looking for seasonal work to make ends meet through the summers while school was closed.
He partnered with his cousin, Ed Ferguson of Danvers, to start a landscaping and pool company, and brought his father, Gene Raucci, into the business, too. Little did he know a career change rested on the horizon that would have him focused more on the cold winter months.
“With a seasonal business like that, we were looking for another seasonal business for the wintertime," Raucci explained. "As luck would have it, my father...did some research and came up with pellet stoves.”
With an introduction to Jerry Whitfield, one of the largest suppliers of pellet stoves on the east coast, and several training seminars under their belt, Raucci acquired the franchise and hasn’t looked back.
He worked together closely with his father, who became a friendly fixture at the shop at 144 Pine St., until his passing in 2000.
“For years my dad was there every day, sitting out front talking to everyone that came up. People told me he could sell snow to the Eskimos; very warm individual, people trusted him and he was adamant about taking care of the customers.
He was a World War II veteran who left high school to join the war. The day he died, Peabody High School was awarding diplomas to veterans who didn't get one, and my sister was there getting his diploma, she rushed to be at his side. She did tell him, but I don’t know if he knew he got his diploma that day.”
The years have seen the business transition from the landscaping and pools to focus exclusively on stoves. With a full line of Quadra-Fire Stoves, which is recognized by the EPA as the cleanest burning line, Warm Traditions Stove Shoppe offers it's customers wood, gas and pellet stoves. They are a full service shop, from helping customers choose their model, to installation and maintenance.
The rise and fall of the business is closely connected to the economy, according to the owner. For instance, he perceived a dramatic change four years ago when the economy started to decline, and not for the better.
“Sales dropped dramatically, then the state instituted new statutes, so I had to get my contractor supervisor license,” he explained. “People were hanging onto their money and being conservative. But, we've noticed this particular year a big up-swing as people seek alternatives to heating their homes. Oil has gotten way out of whack....”
The manufacturing landscape of New England has also changed dramatically over the years as far as the products that are produced here, and according to Raucci, this impacts his business by passing costs onto the customer.
“When a truck comes in from New York, but he goes home with an empty trailer because we aren't producing out of the mills - textiles, shoes, leather, all those industries are gone - he generally will charge half again if he doesn't have a back haul, so the biggest problem the pellet manufacturers are dealing with is transportation cost...”
He explained that while larger chain stores like Home Depot and Lowe's can control their freight costs, the issue is more difficult for a smaller franchisee, like Raucci.
“We have to charge a little more, but we always make sure our pellets are high quality so they burn very well," he explained. "Part of what they're buying is us. They are buying a piece of Warm Traditions to back up the product we are selling."
The stoves at Warm Traditions are very stylish, and can be found in cast iron and steel in a variety of colors from mahogany, and sienna bronze to the more traditional black. (“New England likes black stoves. I think it's traditional, people like the old black wood stoves,” he stated.)
Raucci stated that in his opinion, pellet stoves are the optimal choice for homeowners in New England looking to save money on heating. If folks are looking to compare the cost of oil to the cost of heating with a pellet or wood stove, Raucci provides the following cost breakdown: “Pellets average $285 to $300 per ton, with 50 bags to a ton. Most families will burn 100 bags in a typical winter. One ton of pellet fuel is equal to a cord and a half of seasoned ready to burn wood.”
His tip for buyers is to stock up on the pricey pellets in the springtime when manufacturers drop their prices between February and May to further stretch their dollars.
“If people have storage for the pellet fuel, they can stock up over the spring and summer, to burn in the fall and winter,” he advised.
When investigating pellet stoves as an option, Raucci warns that, “Pellets are not all created equal, like men; Some are created that don't burn very well, due to poor manufacturing.; I recommend buying it and trying it out first to make sure you getting a good quality, before committing to a whole batch.”
He described the process of manufacturing pellets: “Pellets are made by forcing a dye up through the sawdust under pressure. If its not as dense, it will burn faster and produce a lot of ash, which makes it more labor intensive- now the owner has to put more pellets in, because they're not getting as much BTUs in it.
Also, most people have heard about burning hardwood in their wood stoves, but that doesn't transfer for the pellets, because they are all manufactured, or man-made. A quality pellet should burn the same whether its a softwood or hardwood pellet. “
What Raucci wants potential customers to know most of all is Warm Traditions Stove Shoppe is a full service dealer, with a commitment to customer satisfaction.
“We go to factory training every year to learn about the new products and about the older model upgrades, and we service everything we sell. Sell. Service. Install,” Raucci explained. “I’ve had customers here who have had their stoves for twenty years, I know them by first names.”
He described the reluctance of some to switch as a matter of convenience, simply put, oil is, ”...very little work, you click a switch and you’re on your way,” which can make the transition to alternative heat sources a tough sell. But with the volatility in the market, once a customer commits to the change, according to Raucci, “They say it’s the best purchase they’ve ever made.”