Shop Talk is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to Ted Goedel of Ted's Chimney Cleaning in Delhi.

How long have you lived in the area?

I have lived here my entire life except for five years away at college.

Tell me about your business:

I clean chimneys, mainly, and sometimes that involves making assessments and recommendations about the condition of the stove or chimney also. I can talk to people about aging wood, pellet stoves, chimney caps and maintenance that I feel should be done.

Describe a typical day in your business:

When I arrive at a house, the first thing I do is an inspection of the stove and chimney with a flashlight. I check to see if the chimney has a clean-out door or not, along with asking about how the stove has been working, if there are any problems. The actual cleaning typically takes about one hour, and some customers ask to just be put on a regular, once-a-year schedule.

How did you get started in this line of work?

Around the time I was thinking about retirement, I happen to have some elderly friends who needed their chimneys cleaned and asked if I could help them. Word spread from there.

Describe a memorable moment in your workplace:

There are lots of stories I can tell, like a stove that wasn't working well and I ended up removing a record 23 starlings from the chimney. Another customer called because her two-year-old wood burning stove had never worked very well. I discovered that a manufacturer's shipping part had never been removed when the stove was installed. I removed two bolts and the stove worked beautifully.

Where do you see this business in five years?

I do this because I really like doing it and I can help people. I will keep doing it as long as I can.

What have you learned from your work?

I have learned that there are a lot of people in this area that need help. Through all these years of working with stoves and chimneys, I have learned about repairs, wood and pellet fuels, and how to do chimney inspections for insurance companies.

How do you define success for your business?

Again, it is being able to help people, helping to keep (them) safe and avoiding problems.

What is the most challenging part of what you do?

Sometimes it is a challenge to see the risks that have been taken with stoves and chimneys. I am on a regular schedule now with one customer who woke up one night to what sounded like a jet plane directly over her house. The noise was coming from her wood stove with a ¼-inch thick pipe that was cherry-red hot by the time she realized what was happening.

The most enjoyable?

Helping people, mainly, and I really enjoy meeting people.

What are some advantages as well as drawbacks of doing business in this area?

There are a lot of wood stoves in this area, so being someone who works on them ... is an advantage. The drawbacks are that the weather puts a lot of stress on chimneys; they need to be maintained to stay safe.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

I know that there are chimney cleaners around the area like me, but because this is my retirement work, I do it because I really like doing it. I like explaining how a stove works to someone who just bought a house with a wood or pellet stove, and I like to do minor repairs and make recommendations.

What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?

They would need to know that this is dirty work. I carry drop cloths with me for all my jobs so I limit the mess that stove soot can make. Chimney cleaning situations can sometimes be dangerous if you are in tight spots, and I would really recommend that anyone cleaning chimneys, especially for a job, wear a face mask.

Shop Talk interviews are conducted by Terry Hannum. For information, call The Daily Star at 432-1000, ext. 217, or e-mail news@thedailystar.com.

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