Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo
Eric Shepard pours molten metal from a ladle into a furnace at the Vermont Castings Foundry in Randolph.
For consumers, Vermont conjures up images of quality, craftsmanship and integrity.
Now the Paris, Ky., parent company of wood stove maker Vermont Castings is taking full advantage of that image, changing its corporate name from Monessen Hearth Systems to Vermont Castings Group.
Dan Clifford, president of Vermont Castings Group, said the name change reflects the fact that Vermont Castings is the anchor business of the corporation.
“I think the Vermont Castings brand for us stands for craftsmanship, tradition, Made in the USA with pride,” he said. “It has a number of a number of attributes that have really stood the test of time.”
With its range of products, Clifford said that as the company moves forward it’s important that the Vermont Castings name carries more prominence.
“It resonates with our trade, but more importantly it is very well known to consumers,” he said. “And so for us, it’s going to continue to be a source of investment.”
Vermont Castings has its manufacturing plant in Randolph, with offices and distribution center in nearby Bethel.
Not only does Vermont Castings make top-of-the line wood and gas stoves, fireplace and fireplace inserts, but it has also added gas barbecue grills to its line.
Two years ago the company relocated its barbecue-grill manufacturing from China back to the United States and to Vermont, Clifford said.
“So we think there’s tremendous growth available to our portfolio of brands and products to all our facilities across North America,” Clifford said. “But we think in describing that portfolio it’s appropriately anchored with the Vermont Castings brand.”
Joan Goldstein, executive director of Green Mountain Economic Development Corp., said the corporate name change speaks to the value of the Vermont brand.
“The recognition that it’s not only a USA-made product. which I think is more and more relevant now, and the fact that we put the Vermont name on that, is doubly good,” Goldstein said.
She said bringing grill manufacturing back to Vermont from China will also help balance the seasonal nature of the stove business.
The state has a consumer protection law, CP120, that lays out when a company can label something a Vermont product. The law was established primarily to address consumer confusion over the origin of food products.
Assistant Attorney General Wendy Morgan said that although the company is based in Kentucky, Vermont Castings Group is in compliance with the law because the company has a manufacturing presence here.
Vermont Castings represents the company’s premium brand, followed by the mid-tier Majestic brand with its focus on fireplace and fireplace inserts; the Monessen brand also has a niche in the fireplace market. The Majestic and Monessen brands are manufactured in Kentucky and Mexico.
The company also owns Ambient Technologies, which makes remote fireplace and thermostat control systems.
Vermont Castings wood stoves retail between $1,039 and $3,830; gas stoves range from $1,680 to $3,600; outdoor grills are priced from $600 to $2,500.
Because it’s cheaper to heat with wood, stove sales spike when the price of heating oil spikes. But Clifford also said there is a market segment that also prefers the ambience that a wood stove adds to the home.
Clifford said sales of Vermont Castings wood and gas stoves are comparable to a year ago.
He said the company should benefit as it expands its distribution network.
The company already has distribution centers in 24 foreign countries.
“Our international stove sales with Vermont Castings have been a huge source of growth here over the last couple of years, and we expect that to absolutely continue,” Clifford said. “We are growing rapidly in Europe and Asia.”
A competitor to wood and gas stoves is the pellet stove, which has gained in popularity. But Clifford said the company has no immediate plans to add a line of pellet stoves.
“We continue to eyeball the pellet-stove business and I think while it’s tempting to jump into that space, I don’t think we would want to do it until we’re convinced that we had product that was worthy of the Vermont Castings name,” he said.
The overall structure, size and organization of the company remain the same, with headquarters remaining in Kentucky. No personnel changes are expected as a result of the corporate name change.
Vermont Castings Group (www.vermontcastingsgroup.com) employs approximately 700 people, including 200 at its Bethel and Randolph locations.
Monessen Hearth Systems purchased Vermont Castings in 2008 after the Canadian parent company, CFM Corp. filed for bankruptcy.
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