It’s rare for one individual to completely change the face of an industry. Dan Shimek did it twice. He and his brother Ron founded global fireplace manufacturer Heat & Glo in 1975. Coming off that huge success, Dan could’ve chosen an early retirement—but he didn’t. Instead, he turned his talents toward accomplishing a new and innovative vision.
Dan realized there was no reason you shouldn’t be able to enjoy indoor comforts outside. To him, the backyard was a natural extension of the home’s indoor living space. But in 2004, his ideas were years ahead of the time—the concept of the complete outdoor room didn’t exist.
"He paved the way for an entirely new industry."
“Dan wanted to make the outdoor living room just as important as the indoor one,” says Renee Schmitz, The Outdoor GreatRoom’s VP of Business Development and Marketing. “He paved the way for an entirely new industry.”
What was the outdoor room? What should be included in it? What were the possibilities? Dan sought to answer fundamental questions like these. He spent a lot of time putting together different individual items in order to create early versions of the complete outdoor room, with the pergola eventually becoming a defining component.
“Dan identified products that people wanted but couldn’t find easily, and then began to source them from manufacturers,” says Renee.
In those early days, the company was known as Firestone Home Products and only had four employees. Beyond being a small company just starting out, they had to fight against dealers and consumers not seeing the complete outdoor room as a growing trend like they did.
“It was tough,” says Joey Shimek, The Outdoor GreatRoom’s Eastern US Sales Manager. “There weren’t other companies like us back then, so we did a lot of learning and failing on our own—not everything was smooth.”
But Dan was determined. He saw Firestone Home Products eventually providing everything that a consumer would need for their complete outdoor room. So in 2008, after a name change and the acquisition of a Utah manufacturing company, The Outdoor GreatRoom (OGC) began to do just that.
They expanded their product line from just gas grills and pergolas and started to build fire pits, furniture, lighting, outdoor kitchens, and more. Not even the Great Recession could stop them, and when they introduced their classic Chat 42 fire pit table, they started on the path to who they are today. The Chat 42 was OGC’s first fire pit table, and it helped them define who they were as a company. They haven’t stopped making progress since then, and today, fire pits make up 40 percent of their business.
“We helped to grow the outdoor living industry as a whole, and we’ve emerged as leaders within it,” says Joey.
In 2009, Dan partnered with Woodland Direct to expand OGC’s business even further and bring their product offering online. The industry was dominated by brick-and-mortar stores at that time, so taking that step was actually a bit of a leap.
“I was impressed that Dan had the vision back then to see the value in going online,” says Renee. “There was some fear in the industry about selling products over the Internet, but Woodland has become one of our best partners.”
Though Dan Shimek passed away in late 2013, he left behind a lasting legacy. His unique vision and drive for innovation have become part of the company’s DNA. It’s because of him that The Outdoor GreatRoom is in such a strong position today, and able to look forward to a bright future.
“...Woodland has become one of our best partners.”
As of 2016, OGC operates out of a 65,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Burnsville, MN, with 40 employees. They now offer 50 different fire pits—a huge improvement over only 4 in 2008. They’ve also won two awards from home design trendsetter Houzz.com. Some companies might plateau at this point, thinking that they’re in a good enough place. But complacency is a foreign concept to The Outdoor GreatRoom. They’ll always do everything they can to live up to their name and make your outdoor room great.