YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Scott Jones began working at his father’s propane business during his summer vacations when he was 16 years old.
Since then, Jones and his brothers have expanded the 41-year-old business into YP Fireplace & Patio in Canfield. They have added fireplaces, gas grills, patio furniture and a variety of other products to their product line and opened a retail outlet.
While YP Fireplace has seen an increase in business from the pandemic, supply chain issues have been holding it back.
“The last few years have been some of our best years,” Jones says. “We really weren’t affected by COVID from a business standpoint as far as numbers go. We could only have done more.”
But delays in getting inventory slowed the growth rate. “There were certain categories of products that we simply could not get,” Jones says. “We’re still experiencing it now. There are several things that we have been hurt with primarily on the patio side [of things].”
Jones said patio furniture is a particular problem. “There is actually a foam shortage,” he says. “You sit on a cushion and think the foam in there is something that is plentiful – something as simple as that. There is a foam shortage across the entire world.”
Furthermore, Jones says inflation has complicated everything having to do with the oil industry. PVC materials, plastics and the steel industry have all been affected.
Matt Skillman, president and CEO of Ohio Flame, Columbiana, says that while he sells American-made products, his business has also felt the side effects of rising prices in the steel industry.
Prices for steel materials increased by up to 200% in 2021, he says. “It’s been challenging. Material costs and the cost of goods has gone up. … A lot of [businesses] are quick to throw another 10 to 20% increase but we are trying our best to be competitive and not have to increase our price every single year.”
Skillman describes 2020 as a “huge” year for his fire pit business. “A lot of people were stuck in their house and were receiving the government stimulus money and then put that money into their house,” he says. “So, it was a very busy year.”
The pandemic boom has slowed but one area continues to attract customers. “People have been gravitating toward the American-made grid,” Skillman says. “There have been a lot of problems with products getting stuck on boats coming from overseas and people have been gravitating toward American-made offerings.”
Even with supply issues, local businesses still have a lot to offer this summer. Skillman says all of his custom fire pits will be available, as well as the accessories that go along with them. The business also offers custom Fire Globes, a unique product it innovated that is available in a variety of sizes.
One home-and-garden product that is always in demand is plants. And over the course of the pandemic, that demand grew, says Donald Kushner, owner and partner of Kushner’s Garden & Patio in Poland.
“For this year, we have a lot of new plant introductions coming in,” he says. “We like to keep bringing in the new introductions and showing local customers what they can buy. A lot of them are improved varieties.”
The family-owned business began in 1940 with its landscape and garden center. A patio furniture shop later was added and Kushner’s is in the midst of bringing in its fourth generation of family members.
A popular trend is outdoor kitchens, Kushner says. The store specializes in stone from all over the country, which is used to build those structures, along with things like stone house sidings and mulch beds.
Outdoor kitchens are also a top-seller for Jones at YP Fireplace.
“There are a lot of different ways to do it,” Jones says. “Whether it’s built from the ground up or more modular type units that are available now. Living outdoors – that’s really the fastest growing category and all of the things that go with it.”
Pictured: Scott Jones shows the lineup of grills he sells at YP Fireplace & Patio, 4555 Boardman-Canfield Road in Canfield.