After a well-earned break, Ashley and Cass kick off a fresh series of Home Stories…
If you live in Canberra, you’d know the name Burning Log.
Sitting on Wollongong Street in Fyshwick, the family-owned store is synonymous with helping customers live their best outdoor lives with beautiful contemporary outdoor furniture and barbecues, and keep toasty in winter with fireplaces.
The store itself actually started as a larger Australian chain with the same name, which had a store based in Fyshwick, first at Molonglo Mall and then Paragon Mall. When the store moved to its current spot, the existing owners sold off each store to the manager at the time. For the Canberra store, that was John Carey, who bought the business in 1986.
He stuck with the name, and 35 years on and the store is still family-owned, now run by John’s son Pat. As the name suggests, initially the store was purely focussed on selling fireplaces, but ever the businessman, John knew they had to diversify.
“When I started with my Dad, I recall that we sold 700 fireplaces in that year, and Dad said, ‘Gee, it’s a bad year, we sold 1,000 last year and 1,200 the year before’. So the fireplace market was getting smaller, and smaller,” remembers Pat.
It was not long after that Pat went to Sydney for a home trade show.
“My dad said, ‘don’t come back with barbecues and outdoor furniture’. And that’s exactly what we came back with,” says Pat.
So they grew from fireplaces, to outdoor furniture and also barbecues. As their neighbouring stores moved out over the years, they expanded the store, and these days Burning Log takes over the entire block. The name changed slightly, to Burning Megastore, before returning to Burning Log Outdoor Indoor, which has become an iconic name in Canberra.
During the 1990s, a few wholesalers within Australia controlled the outdoor furniture supply, so Pat decided to start going overseas to source their own products, which they started doing in 2000. To increase their buying power, in 2008 Pat was instrumental in launching the Outdoor Elegance brand, which now has a number of owner-operator stores spread across Australia. This allowed them to source more exclusive international brands, import their own products, and make a name for themselves in the international market.
Such is their name, in 2016 international barbecue giant Weber approached Burning Log to be one of the first Weber Stores in Australia, and the Canberra store became a successful blueprint for other Weber stores being rolled out in the country. They still exclusively stock Weber barbecues to this day.
These days, Burning Log is still proudly a family affair. Pat’s wife Natalie also works in the business, and their daughter Grace who finished school in 2020 has been working in the store on weekends. Many of their staff have also been with them for years, if not decades.
The focus of the store is a commitment to top quality products, available at a fair price to their customers. Particularly over the past 18 months, they’ve upgraded the shopping experience for customers, with improvements to the showroom and now flexible shopping options like Click and Collect, and appointments via FaceTime. The spacious store features both an indoor and outdoor showrooms, so customers can get a true experience of how outdoor furniture goes against the elements.
They stock high quality, industry-leading brands, with many outdoor furniture products you won’t find anywhere else in the region, which is all down to the reputation they’ve built over the years.
“With the outdoor furniture business, we go to furniture shows around the world, and our brand is known. We go in uniform and suppliers come to us. They understand how strong we are in the market in Australia, so we have a reputation which is a bit surreal at times,” says Pat.
“We’ll go over to a trade show in Germany or something and someone will say, ‘Oh, you guys are the Outdoor Elegance guys from Australia’. I have a bit of a laugh about that to myself and think, we used to be this little Burning Log store on the corner with yellow plastic chairs at the front. We’ve really come a long way.”