RESOLUTE VERMONT CASTINGS DEFIES THE DOWNDRAFT IN WOOD STOVE MARKET
Back in the oil-starved days of the late '70s, Vermont Castings Inc. had a tiger by the tail. Demand for the Randolph, Vt., manufacturer's fine wood stoves was so high, the company's late president Murray Howell said, at the time, "we could have set up a concession stand on the moon and sold them."
Times have changed, and the wood stove business is now in dire straits. Oil prices are in a tailspin, and most of the folks with the inclination to heat with wood already heat with wood; since a wood stove usually takes decades to wear out, the replacement market is skimpy.
What's more, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is preparing national standards for wood stove emissions, which will ultimately require anti-pollution devices on the stoves that could add as much as $300 to the price tag. This is expected to further depress a market that has declined 10% to 20% a year since 1981, according to the Wood Heating Alliance, an industry group.
So how is Vermont Castings, the nation's largest stovemaker, weathering these tough times? Revenues are down from the heady days of the energy crisis, …