Born, bred and built for the outdoors
By Keith Loria
It was more than 60 years ago when Robert H. Peterson, a metalworker and tinkerer living in Pasadena, California, visited a friend who owned a restaurant with a wood-burning fireplace as a focal point. The owner complained how he couldn’t get his staff to pay attention to the fire, and it would often go out.
Peterson went back to his garage and came up with plans for the first modern gas-log system, then built it and installed it in his friend’s restaurant. Soon after, members of the Restaurant Association wanted their own, and one even inquired about getting one for his home.
That was the impetus of the RH Peterson Company. Looking to augment the product line with a fall and winter product, Peterson purchased the barbecue division of the Whittier Steel company, Fire Magic Barbeques, then run by Harold Keck.
“Harold saw all these brick enclosures for barbeques that were rusting, and he knew there had to be a market for a high-end grill that would last as long as a brick enclosure,” says Jerry Scott, Fire Magic’s senior vice president of sales. “He came up with a line of Fire Magic charcoal grills, and his son Bob introduced gas into the Fire Magic Grill line. His son David now works here, so we’ve had three generations of Kecks.”
Today, Fire Magic Grills offers a number of grills, starting with its highest-end Echelon Diamond and working down to the Aurora, Charcoal & Smoker, Choice, Legacy and Electric models.
Thanks to stainless-steel trapezoid cooking grids and 16-gauge stainless-steel flavor grids, Fire Magic Grills are engineered for durability, even heat distribution and reduced flare-ups. The grills also offer heat-zone separators between each burner, allowing for simultaneously cooking of foods at different temperatures.
“All our grills are made in the U.S.A., which is important to consumers and dealers,” Scott says. “The engine of the grill is warrantied for life, and we use cast steel and the finest parts and materials. A lot of grills might look as pretty on the outside, but they don’t use stainless and they are not as good on the inside.”
The team behind Fire Magic Grills is committed to the independent retailer and doesn’t distribute through the big-box stores.
“For an independent spa retailer to be successful with grills, they need to offer a line of products that are as high-end as the spas they carry,” Scott says. “They should promote the fact that they are going to come in and install a spa, and they can do a barbecue at the same time since the installers are familiar with the gas piping. It’s all about the add-on sale.”
Tracy Kelly of Mr. Fireplace Patio & Spa, Melbourne, Florida, says offering a brand like Fire Magic Grills that’s unavailable at big-box stores helps differentiate the inventory.
“Not only do the grills have the features outdoor kitchen enthusiasts want to see, but these are also items that people can’t just pick up anywhere, and they can see the difference in quality,” Kelly says. “We make a concerted effort to let people who are buying our [spa equipment] know about Fire Magic Grills and how they can complement the purchase.”
Scott also suggests retailers distinguish themselves from big-box stores by proving to be experts in the products.
“Homeowners jump online and look at the products ahead of time, and when they come to the store, they want to feel that the salesperson knows more than they do or else they will lose confidence and go elsewhere,” Scott says.”
The company supports its retailers through a number of programs, including cooperative advertising and a two-step distribution process so inventory can be obtained quickly and easily.
“We are confident selling to our customers because we know [Fire Magic Grills] are going to be there to stand behind it,” says Tom Kay, general manager of Outdoor Elegance, in La Verne, California.
Offering a lifetime warranty is also meaningful and helps a sale, Scott says.
“The desire of a homeowner to enhance the backyard has been around for a while and will only continue to grow,” Scott says. “The partnership between grill and spa is a natural. It enhances an outdoors quality of life, and produces a backyard setting pleasurable to the family and adds to the value of a home.”