Elmira Stove Works got its start when one of Tom Hendrick’s suppliers threw in the towel. He’d been selling wood-burning Findlay Oval cookstoves to the Mennonite community near Elmira, his hometown in Ontario. Tom wanted the Ottawa stove supplier to stay in business, but the supplier refused. “So Tom bought all of the tooling and parts for the Findlay Oval,” says Tony Dowling, Elmira’s vice president of sales and marketing. “He loaded up two tractor-trailers and brought everything back to a chicken barn here in Elmira.”
That was in 1975. Since then, Elmira Stove Works has expanded beyond those wood-burning stoves (still made as their Fireview line) to gas and electric ranges, refrigerators, microwave and wall ovens, and dishwasher panels. The company offers two distinct looks: Appliances in the Antique line, soon to be known as Heritage, resemble those early Findlay Ovals, with lustrous black, white, or bisque finishes (plus Cayenne Pepper Red and Liberty Blue) and nickel or copper trim. The retro Northstar line has a mid-century feel: chrome edging and vibrant period colors as well as black and white.
Dowling recently took me on a Zoom tour of the production facility, where Elmira’s employees assemble, finish, and trim out the various designs. “At one point, we were doing all of the CNC metal forming and welding,” he said. Now, though, the company concentrates on fit and finish, marketing and distribution. In essence, Elmira customizes appliances to fill a specific niche: those who want a nostalgic look, but also the modern components expected in a quality new refrigerator, oven, or range top. Assembly of a Northstar range, for example, begins with a porcelain-plated oven box made by KitchenAid. Ccomponents and trim are built up around it, including the electronics, custom-finished panels, and chrome.
Although Elmira’s appliances were initially designed for the restoration market, customers are surprisingly diverse. “The houses are contemporaries, log cabins, stone houses. It’s the customer saying, ‘I don’t want a stainless-steel box; I want something more interesting.”