For a lot of our members, running their business is a family affair. And that's no different for Don Oakes of Don's Stove & Chimney in Livermore, Maine who takes on the chimney world with his wife, Teresa, and two sons. Below, Don gives us a glimpse into his 30+ years of experience...
What is a question you get asked most about being a chimney sweep/chimney sweeping?
Aren't you afraid of heights?? The answer is - I do not like heights, however, I respect gravity and am comfortable being on roofs as long as my feet are touching the surface. I am definitely not the best date for an amusement park.
What advice do you wish you had received when you were getting started?
I was fortunate to have purchased the business from a certified sweep so he was able to share a lot of what he had already learned. Honestly, it was 30 plus years ago and my memory bank is somewhat Out of Order :) but I probably would have spent more time studying the trade before working in the field.
What is the biggest challenge you face on the job? What are your best strategies for overcoming it?
Trying to eliminate the paper trail and going strictly digital - I am still very old school so learning how to utilize computers and all of the other electronic devices that we have made part of our process is somewhat frustrating. Thank goodness I have a younger generation of folks around to rely on for assistance because there probably wouldn't be any overcoming it - it would still be paper for me :)
Who was your most famous customer?
I would love to be elaborate about this question but I haven't had the opportunity as of yet or am not aware if I did.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Merging the chimney maintenance business with the retail sales/installation/service of hearth products into a successful business that employs both of my sons and wife.
Have you ever had to make your own tool to solve a particular problem?
No, I do enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to fix things, however, I have never fabricated anything that is part of our current tool locker.
Weirdest thing you have ever found in a chimney?
Upon opening up a clean-out door I found a stack of Playboy magazines. The couple had not used the chimney for years - The look on the husband's face was priceless when I presented him with what I had found.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Escape to our camp on an island to fish (mostly trolling), watch the Patriots & Red Sox, garden and spend time with my family. NOT hiking with my wife!
What is, in your opinion, the most valuable part of being a member of the National Chimney Sweep Guild?
The plethora of resources that are available to me and my staff. My boys will be running the show some day and I can find comfort in knowing that if they ever need assistance that the NCSG will have their back with any chimney related issues or concerns.
Thanks Don! If you would like to be featured in the next Meet a Member, just send me, Annemarie Stockton, an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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