Welcome Letter from Don Richardson, CEO
A stroke of luck – that’s how an everyday normal family founded one of what Inc. Magazine is calling the fastest growing companies in America. Our family is honored to be recognized and it goes without saying, that we are extremely proud of our team. Our employees are individuals of integrity and are some of the most dedicated and talented people out there. I’d like to take this moment to welcome YOU to the Arizona Fireplaces team and our family of companies.
I referenced a stroke of luck, as that’s how it all began for me. It was the early-70’s and I was living in California, attending high school, competing in pole vaulting when a local newspaper misreported my pole vault score (luckily in my favor) subsequently opening the door to a scholarship opportunity at the California Lutheran University. Let’s just say I “jumped” at the chance – as it was really my only prospect for affording college. I graduated in 1977 and less than three years later, my wife Debbie and I founded Arizona Fasteners Corp.
Arizona Fasteners Corp began as a small start-up family business. Our journey began with selling gun nails, staples, and framing hardware to the framing contractors. It didn’t take long before I realized there were more products that could be supplied to the construction industry during this framing stage. Because of my close ties with the top builders and the fact that house-framing and fireplace installation occur simultaneously, it was this natural (but not obvious) connection that helped push Arizona Fasteners Corp to quickly become better known as Arizona Fireplaces in the late ‘80’s.
Arizona Fireplace was the engine that created enough critical mass for us to start the 2-step distribution business which is now called AF Distributors. The combination of these two companies somehow made Phoenix the fireplace distribution hub not just for Phoenix, but for the southwestern United States. The intention to build a fireplace company centralized and warehoused in one of the hottest, driest states in the nation, came from the desire to create a sustainable business and setting the intention to become one of the most successful businesses in the state. The intention still stands today and each day we remind ourselves – we can’t rest on our laurels. Each day brings new challenges and solutions – technology and innovation and more happy customers – that’s what drives us.
We have three showrooms specifically designed for designers and builders alike to send their clients to see the most current, innovative fireplace products available. Whether the design requires a traditional wood burning fireplace with gas logs or the large linear direct vent accompanied with a big screen TV above it, showroom visitors will see them all working in live burning displays. When gas is not available, Modern Flames and other electric linear fireplaces demo as a great option. Outdoor BBQs, grills, smokers and accessories are also available to demo and we’ve found that customers appreciate the side-by-side comparison as they share their outdoor kitchen vision with our staff.
Today, our company has evolved to over 250+ full time employees in Phoenix and has “spun out” eight brands: Arizona Fireplaces, AF Distributors, AF Steel, AF Manufacturing, Grand Canyon Gas Logs, Modern Flames, Athena Glass, and Arizona Outdoor Kitchens
It is with humility and gratitude that we realize our place in the industry. I won’t forget my humble beginnings as it is the foundation upon which we built the culture inside Arizona Fireplaces and its related companies. We conduct business and treat everyone we engage with – our employees, clients & customers, vendors, and manufacturers, etc. — with a willingness to serve, to be honorable in all that we do and to always do the right thing. Whether large or small, these values cannot and will not change.