INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — In his early days as a wood stove distributor, Randall Kesler spent the workweek on the road. He spent nights in hotels, and days in and out of stove retailers.
As the young man traveled the Bay Area, the desire to have his own store grew.
“I’d see the stores and think, ‘that’d be nice,’” Randall said. “I wanted to be able to go home at night, to settle down and have a family.”
Randall grew up in and around the stove business in San Francisco and has owned his own storefront in Incline for 34 years.
Wood Stove Distributors is located on Tahoe Boulevard, across from Christmas Tree Village Shopping Center.
A FIRE FAMILY
Being in the stove business was never an option for Randall. During his senior year, he took night classes and worked at his father’s stove business during the day.
Randall said he missed proms and school functions.
“When you’re raised in a strict German family, you only learn to do one thing — work,” Randall said.
Over the years, Randall said he has sold thousands of stoves and “helped build half this town.”
But the hard worker admits there can be too much of a good thing.
Urged by his wife to slow down and work a little less, Randall said he “would have been dead by now” if it weren’t for her request.
“I was trying to do it all and I wouldn’t have made it,” said.
Because of that, Wood Stove Distributors is closed Sundays — the day Randall spends with his family.
Randall strongly believes in becoming a licensed Master Hearth Professional. Although not required, he says it is extremely important as a stove distributor.
The certification is awarded by the National Fireplace Institute and is completed through a series of rigorous and specific courses regarding safety, handling, installation and stove maintenance.
“It’s like a college education in this industry,” Randall said.
Operating under the philosophy of “you can never stop learning,” Randall has spent time, energy and money to complete the courses and continually renew his certification.
“Every class you take, you learn all the things you can improve upon,” said Randall, whose license is up for renewal in March 2014. “My whole focus here is education within the industry.
“I hate to say it, but I was doing some things wrong. I needed to be retrained and to take my business to the next level was through education.”
FIREPLACES IN THE HOME
Fireplaces are as commonplace in Tahoe as the bears. Over the years, Randall estimates selling thousands of stoves whether gas, wood or pellet.
“Can you imagine not having a fireplace up here?” he said.
Built-in stoves also significantly raise the value of a home, Randall said.
As compared to a kitchen upgrade or a bathroom remodel, a built-in fireplace can raise the home’s value as much as 300 percent, he said.
To meet the customer driven industry, Randall “adapt(s) to what people want more and more.”
The traditional fireplace look is becoming more contemporary, trading wooden logs for glass stones or beads.
An interior remodel was recently wrapped up at Wood Stove Distributors in order to display newer stoves. The number of burning units in Randall’s store has nearly doubled to showcase 35 stoves and fireplaces.
Randall’s knowledge allows him to also work for Washoe County as a stove inspector as well.
After his days at the shop, he spend evenings inspecting stoves in homes in Incline.
“He knows wood stoves from when he was a tyke,” said Randall’s friend, Denice Moore. “He lives and breathes it.”
After his long days, Randall says his favorite place is in front of his own fireplace.
“It’s mesmerizing,” he said of his gas stove.
He adds that it isn’t long though before he looks at his watch, glances over at his wife and admits, “only another 7 or 8 hours before I have to wake up again.”
Jenny Luna is a freelance reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza and Sierra Sun newspapers. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“When you’re raised in a strict German family, you only learn to do one thing — work.”