Mendota Hearth Products
Mendota Hearth Products wants to be the go-to fireplace provider to custom builders and designers.
By Jim Harris
Mendota Hearth Products wants its products to be to the custom homebuilding market what Kleenex is to facial tissue consumers. “We want builders to ask their clients not what kind of fireplace they want, but which Mendota they want,” says Ron Schinnerer, sales manager of the Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based company.
Mendota – a division of Johnson Gas Appliance Co., a family-owned company established in 1901 – is a manufacturer of luxury gas fireplaces and gas fireplace inserts. The company’s products are available in North America through specialty retailers. Through an established dealer network, Mendota is reaching out to builders and designers of high-end custom homes to have its products included in home designs. “We want to turn the heads of custom builders and designers. Options make money,” Schinnerer says.
The company’s products are typically the focal point of the home and offer a benchmark of quality for the designer. “We are the most efficient and aesthetically pleasing brand in the category, as well we offer the broadest décor option to accent any design,” he adds.
A Rich Palette
Mendota fireplaces are commonly used as supplemental zoned heaters within homes. “Homeowners typically spend 80 percent of their time in their living room or great room, which is where our products are,” Schinnerer says. “Our fireplaces can keep the most popular places in a home at 75 degrees, so the rest of the home can be set to ‘bedroom temperature’ – 65 degrees – saving people on energy costs.”
In addition to enhancing a home’s energy efficiency, Mendota fireplaces are highly customizable and offer builders and homeowners a vast array of décor options. The company also offers four types of log sets: Norway spruce, birch, premium oak and white oak.
“Black and gray are not the only options in a fireplace,” Schinnerer says. “We offer 16 different fireplaces and four different fireplace inserts, and all of those can be built and dressed in thousands of different looks.” Mendota also offers nine different front options in six unique finishes.
“We can match anyone’s needs from a design and décor perspective,” he adds. “We want designers and builders to always grab from the Mendota palette to build what they want. Many manufacturers traditionally limit the designer.”
Mendota’s fireplaces lead the industry in several quality benchmarks, including the aesthetics of their flames and the strength of their construction. All of the company’s fireplaces are engineered to have brightly glowing realistic flames, which has been created over decades of working with gas burner technology. Through years of engineering, they are also designed to use less gas while providing more heat than similar products in the category.
“The first thing people notice when they walk into our showroom is the nice, glowing fire in our fireplaces,” Mendota Owner Bill O’Donnell says. “No one else goes to the lengths we do to provide that.”
Mendota’s fireplaces are made of 14-gauge steel, and have fully welded, rather than spot-welded, seams. This prevents contraction and expansion as well as combustion chamber noise and flame quality issues.
On The Pulse
O’Donnell and Schinnerer attribute the high quality of Mendota’s products to the internal culture of its parent company. Johnson Gas Appliance Co. also designs and manufacturers a diverse range of gas-powered appliances and operates a concrete curing division.
“More than 10 million cinder blocks and tons of concrete pipe are cured with Johnson Gas [steam curing systems],” Schinnerer says. “Everyone else in our industry builds a fire box and then looks at how the gas and fire work; we understand fire and the push and pull of combustion.”
O’Donnell, who represents the third generation of family ownership of the company, is closely involved in its day-to-day operation. “We are not just a family-owned business, we are a family-run business,” Schinnerer says. “Our owner is in the shop and has his finger on the pulse 24/7.”
The company’s future includes offering a fully customized fireplace and opening up the door for builders and designers to see our full offering. “Today we offer the largest décor offering to specialty hearth dealers, but in the future, we want to build custom boxes to shapes and sizes that our customers want,” he adds.