CEO Spotlight

CEO Spotlight: For Plaintree Systems CEO David Watson, the Future is Taking Its Cues From the Past

David Watson CEO at Plaintree Systems Inc.
David Watson CEO at Plaintree Systems Inc.

Plaintree Systems Inc.’s Chief Executive Officer David Watson has a passion for classic cars and playing the long game.  In 2013, a midcentury-inspired Northstar refrigerator from appliance manufacturer Elmira Stove Works caught the eye of Watson, a longtime vintage car enthusiast. That encounter gave Watson, who is always on the lookout for interesting and profitable manufacturing opportunities, an idea. 

Shortly after his first experience with the brand, Watson tracked down the owners and let them know he was interested in buying the company if they ever wanted to sell. In 2021, the call that Watson had been waiting on for nearly a decade came through, and – in 2022 – he welcomed Elmira Stove Works into the Plaintree Systems family.

“I am reminded of Victor Kiam, who famously said about Remington Shavers in the 1970s, ‘I liked the product so much we bought the company,” said Watson.

What initially drew Watson to Elmira Stove Works was his passion for running niche businesses and a love of bold color. 

Elmira was an established and profitable brand with a dedicated customer base with an eye for nostalgic products. In addition, the company offers its appliances in a broad range of colours, including custom colours, making it easy for customers to personalize their appliances to express their particular design preferences. These factors combined to make the appliance manufacturer an ideal match.

Since 1975, Elmira Stove Works has been manufacturing its premium, vintage-inspired appliances in Ontario, Canada – and distributing its offerings through a network of more than 300 dealers across North America. The company’s three brands marry the best of vintage design with the high-performing, customizable appliances today’s consumers expect.

Elmira’s product lines include the Heritage line, which showcases the distinctive designs of appliances from the late 1800s; Northstar line, which brings to life the iconic style associated with Cadillacs with big fins, drive-ins and diners of the 1950s; and the Fireview line, featuring classic wood-burning cookstoves that draw their inspiration from designs popular in the 1850s. 

Customers can choose from a selection of ranges, refrigerators, microwaves, wall ovens, range hoods and dishwashers, making it possible to create an entire kitchen suite or choose one or two appliances to serve as a dramatic focal point.

Plaintree Systems is a highly diversified company, with proprietary technology and manufacturing capabilities in structural design, aerospace, telecommunications, and now kitchen appliances. The company builds products for aviation and aerospace as well as exterior architectural products. 

“This new venture with Elmira Stove Works aligns perfectly with Plaintree’s existing metal fabrication and manufacturing capabilities while further diversifying our reach,” said Watson. 

Watson is looking to bring his years of manufacturing experience to Elmira Stove Works to streamline processes and get products in front of customers faster. 

To help achieve these goals, Elmira’s corporate headquarters and manufacturing has relocated to Plaintree’s state-of-the-art 135,000 square foot facility in Arnprior in Eastern Ontario, a half hour from Ottawa and approximately 75 minutes from the U.S. border. Elmira Stove Works maintains a sales office in Elmira, Ontario, with showrooms located in both Elmira and Arnprior. 

“Elmira has been a family run company for nearly fifty years, and the quality and uniqueness of their lines impresses even an experienced aerospace guy like me,” added Watson.

The feeling was mutual. Commented Tom Hendrick, Elmira Stove Works founder, outgoing CEO and shareholder, “We had a number of suitors, but the enthusiasm from David along with the Plaintree team’s commitment to excellence convinced us that Elmira is passing into the right hands.”

Elmira Stove Works products are all about precise fit and finish and quality engineering. Plaintree is certified by the Society for Automotive Engineers (ASE) as an AS 9100D company, so maintaining the highest quality standards is already baked into the DNA of the parent company. 

Brian Hendrick, Elmira Stove Works departing president and shareholder noted, “David and his companies demonstrated to us that their experience in manufacturing everything from aerospace to mining domes would allow them to easily move production to their Arnprior location. Plaintree’s manufacturing capacity and resources, and strong focus on quality, will allow Elmira to continue to grow for years to come.”

Elmira’s sales and marketing infrastructure remain in place to ensure that the company is able to maintain the dealer and consumer focus that has helped to drive its long-term success. The marketing plan includes new branding for the company and its products, a refreshed website, and enhanced online and in-store customer experiences. 

Plaintree Systems continues to grow organically and by acquisitions, leading to an eclectic blend of businesses, including: Triodetic, a producer of a proprietary physical connection system used to construct everything from geodesic domes to foundations; Hypernetics, a manufacturer of aerospace components ranging from anti-skid braking components and jet engine assemblies to cockpit instrumentation; Spotton, a maker of custom hydraulic and pneumatic cylinders and valves; and Summit Machining, which performs high-end, precision machining of difficult metals for aerospace engine manufacturers. 

For Watson, bringing Elmira Stove Works into the Plaintree Systems fold is like getting a piece of the past into the present. 

“The desire for nostalgia and reminders of enjoyable experiences from the past have always been popular, but are even more important now. We’re excited to give a new home to the colour and distinctive style that have established the Elmira Stove Works brand as a leading player in the premium appliance space, and are looking forward to making the brand shine even brighter in the future.” To learn more, visit www.plaintree.com and www.elmirastoveworks.com.


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Alexandra Dimitropoulou

Alexandra Dimitropoulou

VP and News Editor
Alexandra Dimitropoulou is a VP and News Editor at CEOWORLD magazine, working to build and strengthen the brand’s popular, consumer-friendly content. In addition to running the company’s website, CEOWORLD magazine, which aims to help CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, and other C-level executives get smarter about how they earn, save and spend their money, she also sits on the Board of Directors of the Global Business Policy Institute. She can be reached on email alexandra-dimitropoulou@ceoworld.biz. You can follow her on Twitter at @ceoworld.