The story of SBI – Stove Builder International Inc. – began 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 was only much later, in 1960, that it began making stoves and fireplaces. During the 1980s, the company sold off several divisions and in 1988 it changed ownership. By this time, F.X. Drolet was specializing solely in the manufacture of stoves, fireplaces and other custom-made metal products. It became insolvent in 1996.
The assets of F.X. Drolet were thereupon bought by a group of investors headed by Mr. Rolland Veilleux. The new business was incorporated under the name Drolet Stoves & Fireplaces Inc. In mid-1999, the shareholders decided to sell a majority stake in the business to the Cantin family, which was 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 was accompanied by major difficulties. The price of heating oil was skyrocketing, the oil stove market was collapsing (35% of sales), and Quebec was practically the only customer base. But strong results were quick to follow the company’s restructuring, which brought 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 took its place in the North American wood stove manufacturing market.
In November 2002, a golden opportunity presented itself. Osburn Manufacturing Inc., a British Columbia-based company which had been a pioneer in the design and manufacture of wood and gas stoves, was in financial difficulty. After a few days of negotiations, Drolet Stoves & Fireplaces reached an agreement-in-principle to buy all the assets of Osburn, whose products were going primarily to the specialty store market in Canada and the United States. This strategic acquisition was completed on November 28, 2002. Osburn’s plant was completely liquidated on February 28, 2003 and the manufacture of products with greater potential was transferred to the Quebec City plant.
In 2003, following the acquisition of Osburn, significant investments were 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 changed its name to SBI (Stove Builder International Inc. / Fabricant de poêles international inc.).
A new strategic opportunity opened 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 entered 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 was decided to establish a production plant in Lac Etchemin (Beauce, Quebec), in a building that had been bought in 2003 and had been serving temporarily as a warehouse. In April 2005, a brand-new plant, equipped with a new high-tech assembly line, went into operation at this facility.
In March 2005, another strategic opportunity presented itself when Metal MDR Inc. of Granby, Quebec, a manufacturer of wood stoves since 1991, was put up for sale. SBI subsequently acquired this company, which was offering an impressive range of EPA-certified wood stoves sold under the Flame brand. This acquisition allowed 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 was opened in Quebec City to ensure better customer service. In March 2006, the distribution centre was transferred to a 50,000 square-foot building on Watt Street in Quebec City. All SBI products, wherever they were manufactured, were now delivered to its customers from this facility.
In the Spring of 2005, the decision was 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™, came out of its assembly line in Lac Etchemin.
In the fall of 2007, SBI completed another strategic acquisition : Valcourt Fireplaces Inc. of St-Jean-sur-le-Richelieu, Quebec. The Company, specialized in the manufacturing of wood fireplaces, was 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, enabled 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 was 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, motivated the Company to move its Quebec City head quarters.
In February 2010, SBI officially moved 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 enabled it to install new, ultra-modern production lines. The area dedicated to R&D exceeded 10,000 square feet.
In 2013, SBI began building chimneys for the first time in its history. This new production line was made possible due to a 2012 joint venture with U.S-based Olympia Chimney Supply Inc. SBI owns 75% of the operation, which gave 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 conducted its first international acquisition by purchasing Australia’s Ecomaxx Wood Heating. However, SBI’s international expansion did not stop there. In September 2014, SBI acquired 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 purchased 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 was 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.
Our company now has 3 manufacturing locations and two 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.
SBI is an ever growing diversified company always on the lookout for amazing talent.
Check out our career page to find out more.