Celebrating 25 Years in Business: An Interview with AES Hearth & Patio Owner, Rick Soccio
This month, we hit a major milestone in our growth. We are celebrating 25 years in business at AES Hearth & Patio! In this special article, Rick Soccio, Owner of AES Hearth & Patio shares his journey and how the business has grown over the years. Read more about how he got started in business, why AES matters so much to him, and where he sees the company going in the future.
1. How did AES Hearth & Patio get started?
My late wife and I needed heat for our house, we had an old farmhouse. We found a stove shop in Carlisle and the shop was actually for sale. I thought I might be interested in discussing buying the business. Three months later, the owner called me and asked if I was still interested, I was, and so we bought it. The business started out of one-half of our house. I planned to do this part-time while keeping my full-time job as an engineer, but ended up quitting my full-time job after only a year and haven’t looked back.
2. What were your critical points of growth along the way?
The first critical point of growth was moving the business out of our house into what is now the Newville showroom. I used to think that would be the only shop, but the growth continued. We bought a chimney business, and the owner of that business joined AES to train some people and ended up staying with the company for many years. We’ve grown tremendously over the years, especially when fuel prices went up.
In 2010, we bought two additional businesses, Killian’s Fireplace Center in Camp Hill and L&S Fireplace Shoppe in Chambersburg. Acquiring both of these businesses helped us to grow.
Then, in 2018, we completely renovated our Camp Hill showroom, adding additional showroom space and products for our customers to be even more inspired to think of what is possible.
The pandemic in 2020 shifted peoples’ focus toward home improvement products, which further helped our business to grow, despite the tremendous challenges we also faced during that time. In 2021, we renovated our Newville showroom completely, adding new space and products on display.
3. What are some of the problems that you are solving for customers in a way that other companies aren’t?
Home improvement projects are overwhelming. AES coordinates all of the work that needs to be done to make a project possible. Some people think of us as a one-stop shop, and that adds a lot of value.
We also work on the entire system for home heating with alternative energy options. So, we work on the chimney too, and ensure installations are done up to code. We don’t just sell appliances, we sell the entire system, which really matters. It needs to be done right for safety.
We used to be limited in the full design of fireplace projects, but now we are fully capable of full fireplace design—from construction to electric and masonry. I’m also a strong advocate for vented products.
The industry likes to push vent-free because they are cheaper to install, but they have serious safety concerns for homeowners. By only offering vented products, we put the safety of our customers first. We do all the service in-house to make sure things are done right and done to code.
4. What makes running AES Hearth & Patio fulfilling on a personal level?
Initially, I was passionate about saving people money on their heating bill. I loved hearing the success stories of people saving hundreds of dollars each month. That was rewarding for me. Fireplaces can also make a house feel more like a home, and I love to help people do that too by making it cozier.
I also really love taking a fireplace that is not being used, installing an insert, and making it usable for the customer! We can make an old fireplace new again and work efficiently!
It’s also exciting to know that we have a very experienced team with expertise in the AES team. We aren’t relying on contractors as much as we were in the early years of the business.
5. What do you hope customers experience when they come to AES Hearth & Patio?
I hope customers experience a low pressure, but purposeful environment. We want to hear what they want and need, then present solutions for those wants and needs. We want customers to have all their questions answered—about design, how work is done, and investment in their property—so they can be comfortable and confident moving forward.
I would hope and expect that customers are looking for quality when they walk through our doors—quality products and quality installation, knowing that AES provides maintenance and care services for the products we install for homeowners long-term.
6. Where do you see AES Hearth & Patio 5 years, or even 10 years, from now?
I see a more robust service department, being able to service more products and help more customers as we become the place that people come to for the servicing and maintenance of their chimneys and appliances.
As we grow, we would also like to serve other markets. We think the services that AES provides are much-needed in other markets as well because many businesses sell only the products (rather than the whole system) and we see the value of being a lifelong partner to our clients and their heating appliances and outdoor living needs.
7. What do you love about the Camp Hill and Newville communities?
I appreciate that many people in these communities are loyal customers of our business and continue to appreciate our expertise and services. People also seem to appreciate their homes and spending time with their families, and the things that we offer can help them improve those experiences—both inside and outdoors!
We serve a diverse group of customers that value a variety of product types from gas to electric to pellet to wood to coal. We have people with all kinds of needs and wants and we get to serve them all. And then they refer us to their family, friends, and neighbors—and we get to serve more people!