28 Mar One Big Kozy Heat Family
Picture from left to right: Hannah Hussong, Jim Hussong, and Heather Reasoner
One big Kozy Heat family
Warming up to the family business: Kozy Heat is cooking
Heating up for success: Kozy Heat celebrates its 40th anniversary
by Jane Turpin Moore
The Daily Globe
LAKEFIELD – Gather round the hearth to hear the tale of a successful, family-run business that keeps on cooking.
That business is Lakefield’s own Kozy Heat, which has been manufacturing gas inserts, fireplaces and stoves, as well as wood-burning fireplaces, since 1976. Dudley Hussong started it all when he built a wood-burning fireplace to help heat his father’s millwork shop during the mid-1970s fuel crisis.
In 2016 the company is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and Kozy Heat continues to be a privately held, family-owned business that offers a full line of stylish fireplaces, both gas- and wood-burning.“Kozy Heat is definitely making a name for itself in the marketplace,” said Heather Reasoner, Kozy Heat’s marketing manager and a granddaughter of founder Dudley Hussong. “Gas fireplaces in particular are really popular in homes because of their appearance, comfort and ease; you just flip it on instead of cutting wood and building a fire.”
Demand for Kozy Heat fireplaces is, in fact, heating up. “We’re growing,” affirmed Reasoner. “We just completed a 17,000 square-foot addition at the end of February for our manufacturing side, and we opened a new gallery in Arnold’s Park, Iowa, in late January as a showcase for our products.”Reasoner confirmed that another 11,000 square-foot addition to the manufacturing plant will soon be started as the ground thaws. “These manufacturing expansions are to allow for smoother line work, more storage for shipping and to help us implement an even quicker turn-around for fireplaces,” Reasoner explained.
Kozy Heat, which exclusively manufactures its products at its Lakefield facility, is one of the town’s largest employers, with 120 manufacturing employees and 11 front-office staff.“There is a crazy amount of Kozy Heat employees who’ve been with us for more than 20 years,” Reasoner said. “Among our employees are lots of husband/wife teams, and a lot of people have met their spouses here,” she added, noting that her husband, Kyle, works in the quality control area.
The Hussong family continues to be well represented among the Kozy Heat workforce, with Reasoner’s sister Hannah serving as a technical writer, her father Jim leading the company as its president. Reasoner also mentioned how her mother, Tresa Hussong, worked for Kozy Heat for many years. She now is the Vice President of Customer and Corporate Relations at Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative. Dudley Hussong, the company’s founder, has been retired for 5 years, and the youngest Hussong daughter, Sarah, is pursuing a college accounting degree. “She’s talked about returning to work here, too,” mentioned Reasoner. “We each have our different interests, which is convenient and really good for all of us.”
That personal, family touch could be another reason Kozy Heat continues to succeed as the 21st century advances.
“We have high quality products that we stand behind, and a human will answer the phone anytime you call,” she offered. “You won’t be pushed aside like you might be when you call a large corporation.” The U.S. and Canada are Kozy Heat’s primary markets at present, with the cooler upper Midwest states (Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin, but also Colorado) doing their part to keep Kozy Heat’s manufacturing lines hot. “California is actually one of our biggest selling states, and we get a lot of business from Canada, too,” said Reasoner. “There is definitely a market down south, as well.”
According to Reasoner, Kozy Heat’s most popular fireplace is the Chaska 34 model. “It’s a gas insert fireplace that a customer can put in place of a traditional wood-burning fireplace with a masonry chimney,” explained Reasoner, adding that the Chaska 34 has three different media possibilities (traditional long fit, modern glass beads or modern rock).
“People are realizing they don’t have to stick with the fireplaces that may be in place in a home they move into, and since all fireplaces are a standard size, you can install a comparably sized Kozy Heat model to replace a competitor’s or a wood-burning one.” Another Kozy Heat best seller is the Bayport 36. “That’s a direct vent fireplace that doesn’t require a masonry chimney,” explained Reasoner. “The Bayport 36 can be positioned anywhere in a home, as long as the vent goes outside, and it comes with a traditional log set or a glass bead version.”
A variety of screen fronts lets consumers incorporate fireplaces that work well with a range of home styles. “The Bayport 36 has nine different screen fronts,” said Reasoner. “I have a Bayport 36 in my basement, and I use two screen fronts—one that has a more summery feel and one that is more wintry. “You can really transform a room with the screen front that surrounds a fireplace.”
A civic-minded business like Kozy Heat can also transform the community in which it operates. “Kozy Heat is a very community-oriented employer,” confirmed Kelly Rasche, Lakefield’s administrative clerk. “Kozy Heat is an important part of our community, both in the economic role it plays by employing residents from Lakefield and the surrounding area, and in terms of its contributions to our town, whether financially or through the volunteerism of its employees.”
For instance, in 2014 Kozy Heat was a lead donor for the new park shelter house in Lakefield’s north city park, the spot where the annual Summerfest celebration takes place each June. “Our previous shelter was heavily damaged in the April 2013 ice storm and needed to be replaced,” shared Rasche. “Now we have a much more user-friendly facility with handicapped accessible bathrooms and a nice kitchen area.”
Rasche also mentioned that Reasoner is as an active member of several community boards and service groups. “And there are many Kozy Heat employees who are on Lakefield’s fire department and ambulance service,” said Rasche. “It wouldn’t be the same place without them.”
Ultimately, it’s an appreciation for Lakefield and the support the community has in turn provided to Kozy Heat that drives the company’s commitment to its location. “We stay in Lakefield because we love it,” attested Reasoner. “We want to make sure this community stays strong, and so we strive to be involved as volunteers and to contribute as we are able. “If we have happy employees living in a happy community, that contributes to a healthy business,” she continued.
“We’re really proud of Kozy Heat, of our community and of our employees; we’re kind of like one giant family.”