AUGUSTA — Rocky Gaslin has learned a number of things through long experience.

One is to treat people as you want to be treated.

Another is that if you take care of the customer first, everything else will take care of itself.

And if his business earns any recognition, it’s due to his employees.

When Rocky’s Stove Shoppe and Chimney Services is honored next month as the 2016 Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year at its annual awards dinner, Gaslin knows the credit goes to the people who work for him.

“It’s good to be recognized, especially for the employees working their butts off,” he said. “Hats off to them. They are doing the work. Without them, there wouldn’t be a Rocky’s Stove Shoppe. This will be a big gig for them.”

He’s also learned something else: If you want your employees to quit smoking, offer them cash.

Over the years, he’s offered $500 to nine employees. The deal is if they quit smoking, they keep the money. If they don’t, they have to give it back.

“It’s a win-win. It’s good for their health, and they save money, and it’s good for the trucks because they don’t smell like cigarette smoke,” he said.

Only two of the nine have given the money back.

It’s an unusual form of staff development — the more expected is the training and certification they get through the National Fire Institute.

Rocky’s employees sell stoves — gas, wood, pellet — fireplaces, mantels, hearths and accessories, and they clean chimneys, refurbish old stoves and do all the work that goes along with selling and installing stoves, like replacing gaskets, cutting stove pipes and replacing broken glass in stove doors.

“Rocky’s is a classic story of an entrepreneur who followed a passion for his industry,” Ross Cunningham, Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer, said. “He’s continued to grow it, while maintaining great relations with the community through support of youth sports and a variety of other charities across the region.”

Gaslin has served on boards and coached youth sports, including softball, and served on the Augusta Planning Board.

But none of that was on the horizon when he first opened his shop in 1980 in Merit Pools and Spas. He had been enrolled in trade school and had worked in another stove shop at the time when he was coaxed into going into business for himself.

It took 25 years to get it going.

“It’s not an easy thing, but it was a good path for me,” he said. “I was very good at working. I enjoy it. I don’t consider it work.”

Since then, he’s relocated twice, and in the spring he’ll expand at his current location. Gaslin is building both retail and warehouse space, which are expected to be done by June, next to the existing shop at 2445 Belfast Ave.

“I thought it was a good idea,” he said. “I still think so.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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