The Reinkes make 45 years in business look easy. Their showroom and gift shop are a regional shopping destination, their products and services are in demand, and their workflow is a well-oiled and organized machine.
Certainly, running a small business isn’t easy, but one does get the sense that the business is in the sweet spot: they’ve learned what works through trial and error and accomplish the job through hard work and expertise.
Originally, the business was started by Ned and Doris Reinke in 1976 and included commercial and residential contracting in addition to fireplaces. Moving from Bay City to their cottage in Leota, Ned Reinke ran the business while raising six children, three of whom run the business today: Mark, Jim and Jean. Later they phased out general contracting to focus on fireplace and woodstove custom work and installation.
Jim Reinke chuckles when asked when he went into the family business.
“Immediately,” he said. “I graduated in the spring of ’76, the only year I went to school here in Harrison. I went right from the classroom to the job.
“As a family, you have your squabbles, but we’ve had very, very little problems working together. It’s been a great partnership.”
Jim’s son-in-law Mike Mier and longtime employee Jeff Eaton round out the family team. Mark Reinke also helps out when he’s not working at his up-and-coming career as a Pro Bass Fisherman or running his own business, Reinke’s Chimney Sweep, a skill he learned from the family business.
Their showroom itself is a good analogy for the business. Fireplace models of all types are glowing warm and beautiful in their finished state, ready for you to imagine in your home. A peek behind the demos at the hardware, pipes, and physical components tell the real story of hard work and expertise in their field. A dozen or more fireplaces are installed, reinstalled, and reconfigured in their showroom as brands and models change.
The showroom is full of cottage décor, furniture, candles and other unique gifts and home wares. The store also reflects their individual passions and hobbies. On display are vintage trucks, motorcycles or some unusual piece that might be awaiting restoration.
“We’ve developed into a destination store,” Jim said. “We have customers come from all over the state.”
Their expertise and knowledge drive their business. Hearth of the Home’s specialty is custom installations. Over 80% of their business is now gas, almost 100% of it used to be wood. The shift had them updating their licensing from a solid fuel provider to a full mechanical license so they can legally install gas lines and equipment. Now there are fireplaces you can run with an app, and Reinke’s keeps up with the latest technology and customer demand for new products.
Jim Reinke reflects on how the business has ridden the waves of the economy’s ups and downs.
“It’s been fun,” he said. “There have been good and bad years. The economy has had its ups and downs. The company was started in the mid-’70s during the oil embargo. We’ve met a lot of interesting people. Now we not only sold them once, but maybe two or three times and their next generation.”
When asked what his takeaway was running a family business Mark Reinke said, “Everybody has to work together as a team to accomplish what we’ve accomplished, and we made sure that we strived to do that.
“It’s not a 9-to-5 job,
he said. “It is after hours and weekends which a lot of people don’t like. A lot of hours, be there.”
His key to success is giving customers what they want.
Many of their customers start out with a fireplace or woodstove in a cottage locally and become repeat customers in their permanent home. Reinke’s services most of northern Michigan. They have even gone into the Upper Peninsula and Canada, but mostly work within a 50- to 75-mile radius of Harrison.
For the most part, the business wasn’t affected by COVID-19, but they have been affected by steel and shipping prices.
Reinke's Hearth of The Home Fireplace Shop is located at 234 E. Pine St. in Harrison. Business hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Visit their website at www.hearthofthehome.com or call 989-539-3551.