A tinkerer’s mind helped Brazier create a better wood-burning boiler. Now he wants to make mowing more fun.
by Gene Rebeck
July 29, 2016
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Central Boiler Inc. / Altoz
Year founded: 1984/2012
Headquarters: Greenbush, Minn.
Annual revenue (2015): $50 million-$60 million for both companies
What it does: Manufactures zero-turn lawn mowers and wood-fired outdoor boilers for heating.
Not many people enjoy mowing the lawn. But Dennis Brazier thinks it can be a pleasure—with the right equipment. A few years ago, he founded a company that makes and markets commercial and residential zero-turn sit-down mowers that are meant to be stylish and fun.
In launching the Altoz brand of mowers, Brazier is building on his success growing Central Boiler Inc., which he founded in 1984 to manufacture outdoor wood-burning boilers used for heating. The barrel style prevalent then didn’t heat efficiently. Brazier tinkered with the design. “I had a revelation moment—this is how they should be built,” he recalls.
Though the original market was farmers with a second residential unit on their property, these days, customers vary from residents of new homes to owners of large old homes who need more heating but can’t remodel. Products also are sold in more southerly parts of the country for winter heating, where an indoor furnace would be too costly.
Central Boiler headquarters is in Greenbush, a small town in northwestern Minnesota. Though sparsely populated, the region is rich in companies with a bent toward tinkering and engineering, notably Polaris Industries and Arctic Cat. That mindset, Brazier says, “is in a lot of our employees,” and has been put to work on the Altoz mowers.
The mowers help even out production throughout the year. At the same time, Brazier wanted to build something more than a tool for cutting grass. “We’ve put a lot of effort into style,” he says. So far, the mowers are a hit. “We’ll probably triple our sales from last year,” Brazier says.
One dealer who’s been happy with the mower’s sales performance is Brent Weiss, owner of Classic Sales, a Central Boiler dealer in Isanti. “What Dennis has done with engineering and development in staying ahead of the curve definitely has put us as dealers in a much better position,” Weiss says.
Brazier says much of his two companies’ success is linked to an “emotional connection” that customers have with wood heating and, with the mowers, the kind of vehicular joy drivers have with cars and four-wheelers. “When they’re done, I want them to say, ‘Yeah, that was fun,’ ” Brazier says.
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