The story of SBI – Stove Builder International Inc. – begins in 1875 with the creation of F.X. Drolet inc., a Quebec-based company which became active in several areas, including foundry work and the manufacture of elevators. It is only much later, in 1960, that it begins making stoves and fireplaces. During the 1980s, the company sells off several divisions and in 1988, it changes ownership. By this time, F.X. Drolet is specializing solely in the manufacture of stoves, fireplaces and other custom-made metal products. It becomes insolvent in 1996.
The assets of F.X. Drolet are thereupon bought by a group of investors headed by Mr. Rolland Veilleux. The new business is incorporated under the name Drolet Stoves & Fireplaces Inc. In mid-1999, the shareholders decide to sell a majority stake in the business to the Cantin family, which is looking for an investment opportunity in manufacturing, especially one that would allow it to take on a more active role in the day-to-day management of operations.
This new beginning is accompanied by major difficulties. The price of heating oil is skyrocketing, the oil stove market is collapsing (35% of sales), and Quebec is practically the only customer base. But strong results are quick to follow the company’s restructuring, which brings about process-based management, innovative marketing techniques, well-targeted research and development, job stability, and excellent productivity and cost control. In 2001, Drolet Stoves & Fireplaces takes its place in the North American wood stove manufacturing market.
In November 2002, a golden opportunity presents itself. Osburn Manufacturing Inc., a British Columbia-based company which has been a pioneer in the design and manufacture of wood and gas stoves, is in financial difficulty. After a few days of negotiations, Drolet Stoves & Fireplaces reach an agreement-in-principle to buy all the assets of Osburn, whose products are going primarily to the specialty store market in Canada and the United States. This strategic acquisition is completed on November 28, 2002. Osburn’s plant is completely liquidated on February 28, 2003 and the manufacture of products with greater potential is transferred to the Quebec City plant.
In 2003, following the acquisition of Osburn, significant investments are made to upgrade the Quebec City plant, i.e., acquisition of new high-tech manufacturing equipment and robotization of the paint room. Drolet Stoves & Fireplaces also changes its name to SBI (Stove Builder International Inc. / Fabricant de poêles international inc.).
A new strategic opportunity opens up in April 2004, when PSG Distribution Inc., a manufacturer of wood and combination furnaces located in La Guadeloupe (Beauce, Quebec) went up for sale. Upon completing its acquisition of this company on July 1, 2004, SBI enters the specialized market of central heating appliances, with the world’s only EPA-approved wood furnace as its showcase product for this market.
In December 2004, it is decided to establish a production plant in Lac Etchemin (Beauce, Quebec), in a building that has been bought in 2003 and has been serving temporarily as a warehouse. In April 2005, a brand-new plant, equipped with a new high-tech assembly line, goes into operation at this facility.
In March 2005, another strategic opportunity presents itself when Metal MDR Inc. of Granby, Quebec, a manufacturer of wood stoves since 1991, is put up for sale. SBI subsequently acquires this company, which is offering an impressive range of EPA-certified wood stoves sold under the Flame brand. This acquisition allows SBI to provide its distribution network with a sufficiently varied range of products to meet all customer needs and expectations.
In January 2005, a new distribution centre is opened in Quebec City to ensure better customer service. In March 2006, the distribution centre is transferred to a 50,000 square-foot building on Watt Street in Quebec City. All SBI products, wherever they were manufactured, are now delivered to its customers from this facility.
In the Spring of 2005, the decision is made to undertake the development of a wood pellet burning appliance. In the summer of 2006, after more than one year of intense R&D efforts, SBI’s first wood pellet burning stove, using a unique combustion technology called COMBEX™, comes out of its assembly line in Lac Etchemin.
In the fall of 2007, SBI completes another strategic acquisition : Valcourt Fireplaces Inc. of St-Jean-sur-le-Richelieu, Quebec. The Company, specialized in the manufacturing of wood fireplaces, is the clear market leader in Quebec for the design and fabrication of decorative and heater-rated zero clearance wood fireplaces. The Valcourt product line, which quality surpasses all industry standards, enables SBI to firmly implement itself as one of the top players in the design and fabrication of wood fireplaces in North America.
In July 2008, SBI proceeds to its fifth acquisition since 1999. It is the Ontario based wood stove enterprise, Century Heating.
The experience acquired in the manufacturing of pellet stoves allowed SBI to innovate and put on the market its first pellet furnace in 2009. Named Alterna, this sophisticated central heating system is the first of a new generation of PSG solid-fuel burning furnaces in which the cleanliness of combustion went hand in hand with the Company’s desire to develop appliances that met ever tougher environmental regulations. In fact, a need for additional space, particularly for R&D functions, motivates the Company to move its Quebec City head quarters.
In February 2010, SBI officially moves to Copenhague Street, in St-Augustin-de-Desmaures, Quebec. This allowed the Company to regroup its two Quebec City distribution centers under one roof and provides the opportunity to install new, ultra-modern production lines. The area dedicated to R&D exceeded 10,000 square feet.
In 2013, SBI begins building chimneys for the first time in its history. This new production line is made possible due to a 2012 joint venture with U.S-based Olympia Chimney Supply Inc. SBI owns 75% of the operation, which gives rise to the new Olympia Chimney of Canada division. SBI then went on to create its own range of chimney products, releasing the Vortex brand in 2013.
In February 2014, SBI conducts its first international acquisition by purchasing Australia’s Ecomaxx Wood Heating. However, SBI’s international expansion does not stop there. In September 2014, SBI acquires Metalurgica Fuhrmeister, a small fireplace manufacturer located near Porto Alegre, Brazil.
In 2015, following the financial difficulties experienced by Soca, one of SBI’s main Quebec competitors with its Nordica brand of wood fireplaces, SBI purchases 100% of the company’s shares. It was later decided to discontinue the Nordica brand and integrate certain models into the Ventis and Osburn brands.
A giant step is made in June 2015 with the purchase of a first building in the USA. Indeed, with a 60,000 sq.ft. warehouse located in South Bend (Indiana), SBI is now ideally positioned to serve its customers with a high-quality logistics platform on American soil.
Guided by endless creativity and the desire to offer the best to its customers, SBI launches a brand new range of gas fireplaces under its Valcourt brand in 2020. Intended for the Canadian market, these products offer a minimalist and functional design that is highly appreciated by consumers.
In June 2022, SBI completes the final steps for its acquisition of the assets of England's Stove Works, a renowned manufacturer of wood and pellet stoves located in Virginia (United States). This acquisition allows SBI to increase its production capacity on american soil, while maintaining a culture of operational excellence in North America.
Another major innovation to meet the urgent needs of our customers: the launch of FlamExpert, a heating appliance maintenance and repair company. Providing service around Quebec City (Canada), FlamExpert professionals offer a turnkey service to ensure the performance and safety of consumer heating appliances.
Our company now has 3 manufacturing locations and 4 distribution centers. It evolves mainly on the North American market, but its international expansion is now firmly in place. SBI has a full range of wood and pellet appliances, as well as a complete portfolio of high-quality venting products. All the pieces are in place to meet the needs of our distribution network and to ensure our sustained growth.