Wood Stove Story

A good salesperson should be able to sell anything. There is an old saying about selling ice to an eskimo. In Ottawa, maybe it would be the same thing considering the frigid temperatures at least a few months of the year. One thing you do want to sell, however, is a good wood stove in a winter climate. As a teenager, I was looking for a job that a young person could do with little to no experience. People my age were getting odd jobs, so I figured I would find the right one to supplement my allowance and save for a fabulous summer vacation to remember.

It was winter and I didn’t expect to be out and about much, or on the road. Ha! My perfect first instance of employment was selling wood stoves to people who owned recreational cabins. I had to traipse around on snowy roads in the local ski areas, which weren’t exactly populated. Visitors rented for the most part and came and went with the season. I soon learned that with just a few prospects, you better have a good story to tell.

I would hang out in cafes and bookstores with my brochures and talk to anyone who would listen. I would extol the virtues of the old-fashioned concept and how quaint for one’s second abode. Wood stoves can be modern, of course, but there is no emotional appeal to a mountain dweller for state-of-the-art anything. I learned to get better at it and began to see a few people more than one or two times in the same places. I became a local fixture and even got invited over for a few hot toddies in front of the fire.

Finally, I met a girl about my age. She liked to frequent one particular eatery with her friends. We started to talk, realized we had a lot in common, and looked for one another during the evenings. One day, I spilled the beans and revealed my “secret” job with some humility and a bit of embarrassment. It was okay with adults, but with a peer, it was, well, uncool to sell wood stoves.

Salty, her nickname, was my savior that winter. Who knew? She not only had lots of friends with cabins, but her uncle was a builder. She introduced us and my career, such as it was, took off. He let me give my spiel and was impressed enough to buy 20 units for a new condo project. My boss was floored, my parents were awed, and I was speechless. I had my vacation money in a flash.

My working life thus began with a modest wooden stove in a mid-price range that came in four colors and three styles. I learned to ski, love the winding roads, and Salty. We saw each other for two years before she left me for college in New York. I was heartbroken, but will always be eternally grateful for her help, caring, and support. She was mature beyond her years, and I was the willing recipient of her generosity.