A continuously evolving product line and strategic partnerships with big-name brands keep Buck Stove going strong.
Believing in the American dream is what enabled Buck Stove Corp. owner Robert Bailey to transform his small country store into one of the most successful stove manufacturing companies in the private market. In 1971, Bailey and Alvin Barrier opened Minpro Supply in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, where they sold gas, refurbished appliances and bologna sandwiches made by Bailey’s mother.
In 1975, they were approached by Carol Buckner of Asheville, North Carolina, to sell a wood-burning stove he had built in the midst of the national energy crisis, when people were eager for heating alternatives to gas and oil.
Sales boomed, and Minpro Supply not only became the first official Buck Stove dealer, it assisted in manufacturing and eventually acquired the company from Buckner. Barely able to keep up with demand, Bailey and Barrier moved to a larger facility in Spruce Pine and increased production. By 1984, business began to level off as the energy crisis waned, and Barrier sold his share of the company to Bailey.
Bailey kept Buck Stove going strong by diversifying its product line, according to his daughter, Sales and Marketing Director Claudia Honeycutt.
“We’ve always been a wood stove company and will always remain a wood stove company,” she says. “But in the last few years, with the decline in the economy, we realized we needed to diversify if we were going to stay competitive and keep our folks working year-round. So we brought in furniture manufacturing and developed a line of outdoor furniture patio licensed by the Timberlake family.”
As business grew, Buck Stove added new manufacturing capabilities until once again it outgrew its workspace. In 2008, the company opted to purchase a 300,000-square-foot facility formerly owned by Ethan Allen.
Since then, it has introduced a private-label pellet stove and expanded its outdoor furniture line to include items like benches and equipment receptacles for public clients.
It also performs unique metal fabrication work for well-known brands ranging from hot/cold beverage stations for Panera Bread to the gates and hardware seen at Walt Disney World.
Made in the USA
One of Buck Stove’s main competitive advantages is its commitment to quality.
“We’re not the least expensive stove on the market, but we’re definitely the most well-made,” Honeycutt says. “Our tag line is ‘Unmatched American Quality,’ and we really believe in that. We’re a grassroots, homegrown company.
“Even if outsourcing may be cheaper and more efficient, we’re just not going to do that,” Honeycutt adds. “We’re going to stay right here in North Carolina as a strong, American-made company.”
Buck Stove strongly believes in sustainable manufacturing by utilizing as much scrap material as possible and implementing waste management principles.
This includes sweeping up all the little plastic curlicues that come off the outdoor furniture during manufacturing and sending them back to the factory to be melted down and reused.
“If we’re about sustainability anywhere, it’s in jobs,” Honeycutt asserts. “We’re not about layoffs. We won’t bring in 10 people to get us through an order and send them home.
“If we bring them in, we intend for them to be here 10 years from now,” Honeycutt adds. “We operate from the heart, and sometimes that’s not always the best business, but we really care about our people. We are very aware that the people who work for us make our company what it is. We’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure they are taken care of and their jobs are secure.”
The company prides itself on having longterm employees and giving them the opportunity to rise through the ranks to leadership positions.
“We always look at promoting from within,” Honeycutt notes. “If we have two new positions open, we are going to look through the people on our payroll before we look outside the company.”
Buck Stove also believes in recruiting students fresh out of school.
“We lean heavily on the local community colleges to help with manufacturing training, laser training and computer training in addition to spending a lot of time in-house, cross-training the different departments,” Honeycutt says. “We’re all about going to the schools to speak to the students about what kind of degree you need to work here and show them that you don’t have to leave town to get a good job.”
Supporting the Community
Buck Stove takes a lot of pride in giving back to the very community that has supported it all these years.
“We’re always bringing people in to show them what we do and how we do it,” Honeycutt says. “Our employees take a lot of pride in that. We sponsor a lot of different events that go on here, including an event called Run for Holland that promotes Down syndrome awareness and research. We’re involved in the local Rotary Club, and we’re the major corporate sponsor for a barbecue festival we do here in town,” Honeycutt adds. “We try to be part of people’s lives as much as we can.”