Ryan Bros. The Company
Ryan Bros. Chimney Sweeping has been serving Sacramento and Placer counties since 1978. We are fully licensed and insured, including Liability and Workers’ Compensation Insurance.
Two of our key staff members, Clay Thompson & Bryce Cheshire are the only FIRE certified fireplace and chimney inspectors in Sacramento, #FP-197 & #FP-288. The is the national certification for chimney inspections.
All of our technicians are CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) certified chimney sweeps. We also have NFI (National Fireplace Institute) certified Wood, Gas and Pellet specialists on staff to assure the correct installation and service of your hearth products.
Our general manager, Amie Ryan, worked quite extensively with the air district in regards to change-outs and the wood-burning rule enacted in 2007 and 2009 for Sacramento County. If you have any questions regarding this rule, please contact Amie at the office and she is happy to discuss this complex issue. Amie also serves on the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Board of Directors, both regionally and nationally.
We are licensed by the California State Contractor’s License Board, members of the National Chimney Sweep Guild, the Golden State Chimney Sweep Guild, and the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association.
We look forward to serving you!
Hearth & Home Interviews Amie Ryan
Here is an interview of busy owner, Amie Ryan, conducted by the editor of Hearth & Home magazine, Richard Wright. Amie is Chairperson of the national industry association, the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, in addition to her work with California air districts and, of course, running her business.
Hearth & Home: I understand your Dad started Ryan Brothers Chimney Sweeping around 1978.
Amie: “Yes. He and my Mom started it in 1978. All three of my uncles worked here at one point or another. They all did stove installs or chimney relining.”
What was your Dad doing prior to chimney sweeping?
Amie: “He actually worked for Lucky Stores, the grocery chain. Like a lot of guys who started in the industry in the late ’70s, he was reading an article in Mother Earth News and decided to get into chimney sweeping to supplement his income. He continued to work for the grocery store while starting this business to maintain our medical, dental and vision benefits. Then he started the business with Mom and they did chimney cleaning and installations.”
Outside of earning some extra money, what attracted him to the business? Was it that he saw a new industry coming on strong with a lot of consumer demand?
Amie: “It was, and he grew up in New York where they heated with wood. They moved from upstate New York when he was a teenager to California, and liked the idea of being self-sufficient, providing for his family and being his own boss. He also saw the benefit of heating with wood.”
When did he begin selling appliances?
Amie: “That was in the early to mid-80s.”
Wood heat has been banned in many places, throughout California in particular. I assume that is not the case around Sacramento, but can you explain the current regulations in your area?
Amie: “Sure. We are in Placer County, but Sacramento County is the largest county that we deal with, and they have an interesting ‘check before you burn’ program. It’s a four-stage program. They have ‘legal to burn,’ and ‘burning discouraged.’ They also have a Stage 1, ‘no-burn unless exempt,’ when pellet stoves and EPA-certified Phase 2 stoves are exempt, and then they have a Stage 2 day when ‘all burning is prohibited’ except for gas.”
Well, that seems reasonable to me.
Amie: “It is. We worked hard on that – John Crouch and myself, and HPBA Pacific and some other retailers. Back when they first did this rule in 2007, they did not want to allow an exemption for pellet stoves and the Phase 2 stoves, but they were providing change-out money if people wanted to put in these types of appliances.”
“So, we went to the elected officials and said, ‘If you’re going to give money to put in these cleaner-burning appliances, you need to give them some type of exemption.’ They directed the Air District staff to go back and come up with a revision to the rule that included a partial exemption for the certified and pellet devices, which we were thrilled with. It was important to get that partial exemption for the cleaner-burning devices.”
Do you sell more gas appliances these days?
Amie: “We still service a lot of wood-burning appliances. They may not all be in use, but just in Sacramento County there are over 300,000 fireplaces. Placer County, next to Sacramento County, is a large area and there is a lot of wood-burning there. They have no burn restrictions in Placer County. As far as sales of new appliances go, yes, this year has been a heavier gas year than a wood-burning year.”
“But it tends to vary. It’s very cyclical. Last year we sold more wood than we had in the past. It may have been because the tax credit was expiring, or they just wanted to get a new stove.”
“Probably three or four years before that we had a big run on gas logs. So, I think it’s cyclical. There have been a lot of no-burn days this year in Sacramento, and that could be part of it as well. But we have seen higher gas this year. We have also seen strong electric sales. The electric hearth industry has come leaps and bounds from what it was even five years ago.”
What about the contract business?
Amie: “We’re finding that a lot of apartment complexes that were built in the mid- to late-’80s have rusted chase covers and the fireplaces have rusted or the pipe is not available anymore.”
“So, we’ve been installing quite a few electric units in apartments this year because that still provides the ambience of a fire, but it’s a cost-effective proposition for them. I think the electric has its place, but I also don’t think that it’s going to replace the wood, pellet and gas market. It’s a feeling. There is something about having a fire, and it is unquantifiable in my opinion.”
Unlike many or most other retailers, you stayed with the hearth industry exclusively. Have you ever really considered getting into other categories, such as barbecues, spas, patio furniture?
Amie: “We actually carry Pellet Grills. We got into those probably within the last year, year and a half. They take a little education for the consumers to get them to work, but yes. Getting into something like that, and the outdoor fireplaces, and the fire pits it’s just an expansion within our industry as opposed to going to something that is totally different.”
So, you think the barbecue end of it is within the core?
Amie: “I do. Maybe it’s because it burns pellets and has similar properties such as the ignitor and the auger. It might be a bit of a leap, but I do feel it’s something that is still within that realm.”
“We do everything, from our Thanksgiving turkey to roasting all of our vegetables from the garden, to making homemade salsa. I think they are fantastic.”
You’re only the fifth woman to take the chair at HPBA, but there have been 35 men over the years. I’m sure you’re well aware of that.
Amie: “I am, and I feel lucky to be in that category because I have immense respect for the women that have come before me. I think it’s great that more and more women are getting into the industry, whether it be on the retail side or the service side, or what not. Someone told me that I will be the first chairperson from a service company, and that is exciting. I think that’s neat. There are more women getting into the service industry as well.”
How many days a week are you open?
Amie: “From October through March it’s six days a week. The rest of the year it’s five and then we will do Saturdays by appointment in our showroom. One of our service techs does work on Saturdays all year. But as far as the showroom and the office goes, we’re five to six days depending on the time of year.”That’s tough.
Amie: “It can be, but I do love it 99% of the time.”
Well, I haven’t seen such enthusiasm in a long time.
Amie: (Laughing). “I love what I do. We’ve been talking about Government Affairs and Air Districts, and my degree is in Government, so I enjoy working on this important part of our business.”
You moved a couple of years ago. What is your square footage now?
Amie: “Between our showroom and our offices we’re about 800 to 900 sq. ft. So it’s not huge, but probably 80% of our business is still service, and 20% is installation, new products. I think we have 13 units on display in all fuel lines including electric. We’ve got more warehouse and showroom space. It was a good move for us.”
Are there many family members in the business?
Amie: “I’m the only family member left in the business.”
Any last comments, Ms. Chairperson?
Amie: “I’m really excited about working with the industry affiliates this year, and with national, working on membership and kind of reinventing it. There was a great energy about the industry show this year held in Nashville. It’ll be in Dallas in 2019.”
Check Before You Burn