‘Chim chiminey, chim chim cher-oo!’ — Shad Sidebottom, owner of The Flue Doctor, goes above and beyond for his clients
Special to The Union
WHAT: The Flue Doctor
WHO: Shad and Lindsy Sidebottom
CONTACT: Call 530-277-9836 or visit the website at TheFlueDoctorOnline.com
When Santa Claus makes it down a Nevada County chimney soot-free, he just might have The Flue Doctor to thank.
“I have a lot of customers that have children, and this time of year we tell the kids we’re cleaning their chimney for Santa’s arrival,” said Shad Sidebottom, owner of The Flue Doctor.
The Grass Valley business installs wood, pellet, and gas stoves. Sidebottom also offers chimney sweeping, dryer vent cleaning, roof blowing, rain gutter clearing, and flue liner installation and cleaning. That’s a lot of time spent up on roofs, especially for someone who was afraid of heights.
“I started when I was in high school, and I was terrified of heights,” said Sidebottom. “I looked like one of those scared kitty cats in a tree. It took just getting on roofs and going for it. I eventually got comfortable and I was fine.”
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That was 21 years ago, when Sidebottom worked for Jim Chiesa, founder and owner of Abercrombie & Co. Stoves and Awnings of Grass Valley.
“Early on, I told Shad to treat it like he’s walking on the ground,” said Chiesa. “That helped him to get over that fear.”
Chiesa considers Sidebottom his “protégé.”
“He was a hard worker and we were a good team,” Chiesa said. “It’s all about respecting customers’ homes and treating them like family. I’d be putting tools away at the truck and I’d hear Shad around the corner talking to the customer, saying everything that would have come out of my mouth.”
The student becomes the master
When the awning and fireplace divisions of Abercrombie began to take too much of Chiesa’s time, he offered to sell the chimney sweep business to Sidebottom.
“Shad deserved it, and he’s taken it to a very successful level,” praised Chiesa.
“Jim is the reason I am who I am,” said Sidebottom.
For the past 16 years, Sidebottom has grown his business and added new services. He’s licensed and bonded, and offers free estimates. He stays abreast of code requirements and safety regulations, and he’s constantly training in the latest techniques and technologies. His service area is a 100-mile radius around Grass Valley.
“I called three companies and the Flue Doctor was the only one to return my call,” said Jim Helling of Foresthill. “Shad came here at the exact time he said he’d be here. He was very professional and I was impressed by his knowledge. He encouraged us to get a new stove because of a crack in our old one, but didn’t push us into it. In the end, we found we could afford a new stove, and Shad did all the work in a couple of hours,”
Later, Helling said, Sidebottom showed him how to start an efficient fire in the new stove.
“It was amazing,” said Helling. “And the coolest thing was later that day he called to touch base and see if we were happy. That doesn’t happen in today’s world. No one follows up and most just take the money and run. Not Shad. He’s a down-to-earth guy.”
Doug Olson of Auburn also hired the Flue Doctor to install a new wood stove insert and flue liner.
“We made an appointment and he was here on time,” said Olson. “They did a very good job. They used drop cloths to protect everything. They worked safely, and were very conscientious of our property. I would hire them again. There wasn’t a question about his capabilities. I’d definitely recommend him.”
Going the extra mile
Fireplace and stove work is inherently messy, but The Flue Doctor leaves each job in pristine condition. To control dust, ash, and soot, Sidebottom deploys a state-of-the-art commercial vacuum and copious drop cloths, and wears plastic disposable shoe covers, as necessary.
“I protect everything and treat customers’ houses as if they were my own,” said Sidebottom, whose website proclaims: “A Passion for Service. A Dedication to Quality.”
Sidebottom works 50 to 80 hours each week, August through February. During the slower summer months, he operates a window cleaning company. Summertime is when he wishes customers would get “winter ready.”
“Get it done when you’re not using it so it’s ready when you want to use it,” recommended Sidebottom.
Sidebottom has invested ample time, talent, and money in The Flue Doctor. He purchased an Escalera stove dolly, and two sets of vans, ladders, and tools. The second set exists because he’s had employees in the past, but few meet his high standards.
“If I could find someone qualified, reliable, and reputable, I’d hire them,” said Sidebottom.
That would allow him to spend more time with his wife of three years, Lindsy, and their blended family of 8- and 13-year-old sons and 14-year-old daughter.
Lindsy is an integral part of the company.
“She’s even more important to the business than me doing the work,” said Sidebottom. “She answers the phone and talks to the customers first. She does the scheduling and makes sure it’s a good route. She’s the reason I’m on time. We’re a good team.”
Once he had children, Sidebottom said he began to take extra care to avoid potentially-dangerous situations. He’s never fallen off a roof, but once he took a tumble with his mentor, Chiesa, oh so many years ago.
“We were working in Dutch Flat, and he went up on a metal roof,” said Sidebottom. “I was holding onto the gutter at the top of the ladder, and Jim was walking on the roof screws to get traction. Then he slipped.”
“I’ve only come down off two roofs out of thousands,” said Chiesa. “I came sliding down toward Shad. We both went down. I remember landing on a dog house. And then the ladder fell on me. No one was hurt, probably more our pride than anything.”
“We both fell backwards,” said Sidebottom. “I kind of caught his fall but not all the way. I jumped off the ladder and landed on my feet.”
Shad Sidebottom has been landing on his feet ever since.
Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. To suggest a business news feature, contact her at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.
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