An Inventive Spirit Supreme Fireplaces’ founder built a business that thrives on nonstop innovation. BY CHERYL DANGEL BARTOLINI
Emmanuel Marcakis is an example of someone who does what he loves—and as a result, loves what he does. He was working full-time as an engineer for Canadair, building aircraft engines, 30 years ago, when he decided to build a few fireplaces (for fun) in his garage. Today, his garage is a 60,000–square-foot facility with 30 employees who are proud to work for Supreme Fireplaces Inc. (Montreal, Quebec), a presence in the U.S. and Canadian markets. His daughter, Anastasia, works at Supreme as sales manager, alongside her sister, Katherine, and her brother, Alexander (both of whom work in product development). Anastasia explains that as a teenager in Athens, her father worked in a foundry (and later, in several machine shops) before becoming an accomplished tool and die maker while attending night classes at a trade school. She says, “During these years, he developed a passion for engineering, which led him to a university.” While studying engineering, he taught night classes at the same trade school that he had once
The Vision EPA-approved see-through stove
The Galaxy EPA-approved zero-clearance fireplace
attended. When he moved to Canada, he earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering along with an MBA degree from McGill University. Constructing fireplaces became his hobby, and in the 1980s, he decided to help his family, friends, and neighbors reduce their heating bills and improve the efficiency of their masonry fireplaces. “Every homeowner was looking for an alternative source of heat. A lot of homes in the suburbs had masonry fireplaces, and installing a wood insert was an economical and easy way to heat your home. At the time, however, there was a limited selection of inserts. My father saw a need in the market and knew he could offer consumers a better product,” Anastasia says. Local retailers refused to carry his first fireplace insert, the Woodtherm (a name that he also applied to the company). “They did not really trust doing business with a one-man show,” Anastasia explains. Far from discouraged, Marcakis started advertising directly to consumers in local newspapers and followed up on leads in the evenings and on weekends. “He would bring the surround of the insert with him and place it near the opening of the fireplace, so the customer could visualize how the product would look against the brick,” Anastasia says. “When customers agreed to buy the product, they had a two-week trial
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period—without any obligation to pay in advance. My father even agreed to remove the product if they weren’t entirely satisfied (which only occurred once, throughout all his years of selling at retail).” The volume was small, but the margins were high. “As the demand for such a product increased, he decided to make what was once a hobby a fulltime job,” Anastasia says. Marcakis left Canadair four years after making his first fireplace and hired employees to help meet the increasing demand. He renamed the company Supreme Fireplaces. KNOWN FOR INNOVATION As the business grew, Marcakis developed high-efficiency, zero-clearance, see-through fireplaces. “He specialized in designing and building products with a stainless-steel firebox that had no refractory bricks. This innovation offers lightweight, maintenance-free products that can transfer heat quickly into a room,” Anastasia explains. Marcakis continues today as president and founder of the company, which has become known for manufacturing a variety of award-winning woodburning fireplaces and inserts, zero-clearance models, and see-through stoves and fireplaces to a network of dealers and distributors across the United States and Canada. “We primarily focus on developing unique, innovative, and user-friendly products that will serve our customers for a lifetime,” Anastasia says, referring to the Galaxy, Vision, and Opus models, all of
Patio & Hearth Products Report is a bimonthly trade publication for specialty stores, retailers and dealers of patio, hearth, barbecue, gril...