TURNING UP THE HEAT

BY BARRY WALDMAN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

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Try this with a big box home improvement store: buy a gas fireplace or some other highend propane-fueled home amenity and have the store install it. Then, when you have an emergency on a weekend or a holiday, call a staff member’s personal cellphone and ask him to fix the problem within the hour.

The whole premise is ridiculous, right? But it’s not ridiculous at M&M Oil and Propane, Inc.— The Fire Place. In fact, that’s the way they do business. Johns Island-based since 1962, M&M’s local pedigree runs deep. Owner Grey Minshew, whose parents started the company, traces his family’s arrival in Charleston to the 1800s. His wife, Anne’s, family came ashore a century earlier. They live on Johns Island and have raised two sons there, one a College of Charleston grad and the other a Citadel man.

When the Minshews say they provide service, they mean that with a capital S. “You don’t have to press ‘one’ for anything when you call us,” says Anne. “A person answers the phone and will try to answer your questions.” That person is a local too, and the odds are good that he or she is a veteran member of the M&M team. Half the staff has been on board for more than 10 years. They possess the same passion and dedication to service as the owners. Like the Minshews, they live nearby and know many of their customers. They even go to church and enjoy the beach at Kiawah with them. “If we don’t know someone personally,” notes Anne, “we know someone who knows them.”

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If you’ve dreamed of the warm glow of a hearth, a glass of wine in hand, cuddling with your true love, it’s likely that not any fireplace will do. Its style must match your house and your needs. By offering the look of a wood fireplace without the hassle, gas can be a wonderful alternative. It provides instant flame and technology that can heat a room and embrace you in a ski lodge ambience. M&M also offers glamorous outdoor grills, fire pits, outdoor kitchens and even backyard furniture to complement those accessories.

Your outdoor kitchen might include the Big Green Egg, M&M’s best-selling item. Described as “the world’s only high-quality outdoor ceramic kamado-style charcoal grill,” the Egg is a grill, an oven and a smoker combined. And its color and shape make it a standout, to the delight of many. The Egg is, in fact, a handy complement to a gas grill, with the gas grill offering convenience and the Egg a smokier flavor.

Great service is particularly important when buying a highend fireplace, since there are so many styles, sizes and options to choose from. Customers often need guidance from the M&M staff. They can spend as many as two hours in the showroom discussing styles and options and thinking through all the details necessary to ensure they choose the perfect product. But it doesn’t stop there. The company’s installers do a site visit first to identify potential problems before they arise.

Beyond selling fireplaces, M&M installs them, connects gas lines and vents, and offers incomparable service. It’s onestop shopping.

If you want the finest brands, unparalleled service from people you know, and the dreamy feeling of vacationing in either your living room or on your deck, M&M can help you get there.

Barry Waldman is principal of Big Fly Communications, a PR/marketing firm for nonprofits and small businesses. Gobigfly.com.