Lifetime Embers emerges from ashes of pandemic
Fire-pit company grows market reach, revenuesMay 19th, 2022
In the midst of the global pandemic, two Spokane men, Ryan Yeoman and Darin Petty, have formed Lifetime Embers LLC, a local fire pit manufacturer and distributor.
While the worldwide health crisis coincided with the opening of their business, Yeoman and Petty say they found ways to expand the company’s market reach during the pandemic induced lockdown, and they’re projecting strong revenue growth despite increased shipping costs.
Petty and Yeoman formed Lifetime Embers in 2020 and sold their first fire pit that October. Yeoman says with so many families spending a majority of their time at home, there was a steep uptick in outdoor remodel projects and a specific demand for fire pits.
The fire pits burn wood, propane, or natural gas and both Petty and Yeoman say the increasing cost of energy hasn’t been impacting business at all.
The company began selling fire pits made from refurbished rock-crushing cones, which are pieces of equipment similar in shape to a conventional fire pit that are repurposed from a rock-crushing machine.
“We were buying a bunch of rock-crushing cones, which were very popular,” Yeoman says. “However, they became harder to find and were not as uniform in shape, size, or texture, so we came up with three different molds.”
The fire pit molds are made from a mahogany wood frame, which is filled with green sand-casting materials that molten cast iron is poured into to take the shape of a fire pit.
“The mold that they make out of mahogany is literally like a piece of furniture that’s in essence the opposite of what that (fire pit) looks like,” Petty says.
Petty says Lifetime Embers invests between $40,000 to $50,000 to create a mold for each model and the molds are used repeatedly to manufacture the fire pits. The company manufactures between 25 to 30 fire pits per month.
The base model price for fire pits without the burner elements included will range between $1,650 to $1,800, Yeoman says. The cost will vary depending on the price the retailer sets for the units, he adds.
The three product models are the LE-48, a 556-pound round cast iron fire pit; the LE-42, a 500-pound square-shaped fire pit; and the LE-36, a 336-pound round fire pit.
The vessels are cast at a foundry in Moses Lake, Washington, from melted-down, recycled iron, sometimes including car parts. They typically are manufactured in batches of 15 to 20 units that take about two weeks to process completely, Yeoman says.
From the Moses Lake foundry, the fire pits are shipped to a private Spokane residence where the units get seasoned to accelerate the blooming process of the cast iron, leaving a natural finish for the wood-burning models.
“We treat them with basically water. We accelerate the blooming, or aging, process to get it rusted,” Yeoman says. “They can be powder coated if you’re doing natural gas or propane, but you can’t do that with wood—it (burns) too hot.”
Lifetime Embers offers two options for powder coating: black and copper vein.
After finishing touches, the units get shipped to retailers.
Yeoman says, “Our burners burn anywhere from 120,000 to 230,000 British thermal units. It’s a lot (hotter) than your typical barbeque, which is typically 45,000 Btu. And we’ve teamed up with a company in Phoenix, Arizona, that manufactures our burners for us.”
The burner elements for the gas and propane-burning models are made by Bobé Water & Fire LLC.
Lifetime Embers has about 1 acre of storage and finishing space located at a private residence in North Spokane.
The company has partnered with about 16 retailers, or dealers, located in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and California.
Yeoman says Lifetime Embers is pursuing opportunities to sell its products through dealers in Denver and Phoenix this year as well.
“We’ve also shipped as far away as Ames, Iowa,” Yeoman adds.
He says the company sells directly to dealers and markets to landscape architects.
“If we don’t have a dealer in the area, we work directly with a contractor or landscaper,” he says. “For example, we’re going into year three now, and we’re starting to see our products (designed into projects) out at Gozzer Ranch, out on Lake Coeur d’Alene.”
Architects in Kalispell, Montana, and Seattle also have started including Lifetime Embers’ products in their designs.
Petty and Yeoman say the cost of shipping is growing for their company and with multiple orders shipped in the past month, it has created an expensive challenge for the company to overcome.
“There’s been a 50% cost increase in freight to ship to Texas,” Yeoman says.
They say Lifetime Embers offers a heavy product, but that the company has optimized the product design to prevent wasted space during shipping. The fire pits are made to stack together, so several can be shipped on a single pallet.
Yeoman says he and Petty plan to focus on marketing the product to contractors and landscape architects, and to grow brand awareness by attending trade shows when possible.
Lifetime Embers sold 250 units last year, Yeoman says, and hopes to grow 30% or more in revenue this year.
The company operates with Yeoman and Petty as its only employees and is headquartered in Spokane.
“We’re hoping to hit $1 million in sales. That would be our best year yet if we could do so,” Yeoman says.
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