Angelo Farruggia from Fire N' Stone in Tilton, NH has some great insights into what it means for him to be a chimney sweep and how he's advancing the industry. And he's seen some pretty cool things along the way...
What is a question you get asked most about being a chimney sweep/chimney sweeping?
Do you wear a top hat? While it’s a funny question, it highlights that we as an industry need to better educate the public. Our field is highly technical and takes considerable training and knowledge to perform as well as on the job training to perform our duties. Contrary to public belief you can't just wake up one day and do a quick course to do what we do. Its takes years in classroom and in the field to be able to provide a top level of service.
What advice do you wish you had received when you were getting started?
Network, network, network. Our industry has many great people that are always willing to help. We are all always learning as our industry is ever changing. Leaning on those that have the knowledge or helping others that may not have run into a situation is what makes our industry special. It’s very much a family atmosphere.
What is the biggest challenge you face on the job? What are your best strategies for overcoming it?
Many times the biggest obstacle is overcoming public perception of what we do. As I stated previously people still look at our industry as a bunch of sooty faced people willing to do dirty work that anyone can do. This perception is rampant and we see it with customers, code agents, insurance companies, and even in employment applicants that think anyone can do the job. They don't realize the time and education (both past and ongoing) that we invest to do what we do. They don't realize the equipment that a legitimate chimney business will purchase to perform our work. In many ways I can't fault them when we have businesses performing sweeps for cheap, doing improper services, etc. Because of all this, I find we spend a vast majority of our time educating the public. This is something that we as an industry need to do better with.
Who was your most famous customer?
Batman... No, seriously. I just can't say which one.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
The next one... I say that because if you aren't adding to the list in our ever-changing industry then you might as well pack up shop. What you have accomplished is important but you need to always be learning and making yourself better. We started as a 1 truck operation doing sweeps and minor repairs and have grown to a hearth showroom and chimney service business doing numbers that I never thought would be possible. We have been on television shows, featured in newspapers, and have received many awards. Its all great but if we sit on our hands basking in whats passed and aren't striving to always better ourselves then its all for not. At almost 10 years in I find myself looking for more knowledge and constantly changing things in search of the next thing that will put us at the next level. The thing I have figured out is that will never stop because those levels are endless and you will get out what you put in...
Weirdest thing you have ever found in a chimney?
In a historic home, we ran into a unique situation. The home had a center chimney with 7 fireplaces venting thru it and the chimney was struck by lightning. The homeowner did not realize it was struck and the damage caused severe water penetration that destroyed the chimney and flues. During the course of reconstruction we had to gain access to behind a wall. The structure dimensions by all observable points led us to believe it was completely masonry at a large dimension but when we removed a wall we found a "room" of sorts bricked in behind/between the fireplaces on the 1st floor. In the space we found some crude utensils and it appeared a person or people stayed in there or were hidden there MANY years ago.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I love spending time with my wife and 2 beautiful girls. I find boating to be our escape as we live in a region with an 82 mile lake. Even though while on the boat I am a short trip from shore/reality, it provides a disconnect that allows me to leave work behind and focus on what truly matters and the reason why I do what I do. Family...
What is, in your opinion, the most valuable part of being a member of the National Chimney Sweep Guild?
Networking. The industry professionals, the manufacturers. You can honestly only go so far on your own and the tools at our disposal as Guild members are invaluable. If you want to make your business all that it can be, then organizations like NCSG are here to make it possible.
Thanks Angelo! It's always great to know what other industry professionals are up to, especially when they are hanging out with Batman.
If you would like to be featured on the next Meet a Member, send me (Annemarie) an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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