From a company standpoint, River City Chimney and Hearth wants to help people celebrate a lifestyle — using fire to heat someone’s home, or to cook a meal.

Owner Ron Waschkowski was a corporate purchasing manager when he decided to pick up chimney sweeping 20 years ago. Because of his father’s German roots, Waschkowski said he was familiar with a German law stating that chimneys must be swept once a year, so he started doing that on the side.

“When I worked in a corporate setting, I learned that company culture is important, it is who you are,” Waschkowski said. “Whether I worked for someone or they work for me, knowing our core values made our company soar.”

Twenty years later, Ron and Karen Waschkowski own a showroom, three company vehicles and have five people working with them. The family’s German shepherd, Jackson, is even part of the team. Although Waschkowski still sweeps chimneys, his business has expanded to sales, repair and service on gas, fire or pellet products.

“When you purchase something from us, we service it,” he said. “We feel like we know our customers, their lifestyles and what they are looking for as far as product quality. We are involved in heating homes and cooking food and, more than anything, we want to help people enjoy that.”

Being located in Council Bluffs doesn’t hinder travel when it comes to chimney sweeping, product service or installation. Some of River City’s customers live as far as Fremont, Nebraska, or Des Moines.

“I’m fortunate to own a business in Council Bluffs on the Nebraska border. Some of my customers have been longstanding for the last 20 years. I would drive to wherever they are just to sweep their chimney,” Waschkowski said. “Considering lifestyles, this is just something that we do here.”

Some of Waschkowski’s fondest memories are embedded in his driving when he comes across homes, buildings or places he has serviced.

He said when he’s driving around and sees those places, there’s a memory of everything he did there and the connection he made with the customer. On the other hand, he said, the hardest memories are the customers who have passed away. Some he has known for 10, 15 or 20 years, he said.

“I will remember people and the work I’ve done. If those people aren’t here anymore, that’s so hard for me,” he said. “One of my customers lived in Denison. The last time I saw her, I swept her chimney and said goodbye. And that was the last time I saw her.”

On June 30, the company is hosting a barbecue cooking class featuring Bryan Meyer, member of the award-winning BAMBQ Cooking Team from Cedar Rapids. For $40, attendees can learn how to smoke ribs, brisket and pizza using the showroom’s equipment and accessories. Registration is open for 30 to 45 people and can be done online, in person or over the phone.

During the event, 20 percent of grill and grilling accessory sales will be donated to Midlands Humane Society, an organization that aligns with the family and company’s core values. The Waschkowskis chose the Midlands Humane Society in honor of Sissy, a 14-year-old Labrador they rescued, who passed away last year. Waschkowski said animals are a part of the family, and they help us feel safer at home, which is his reason for giving back.

“A business that only benefits the owners is not a business, in my opinion. What can I give back to the community and employees who work for me? Our mission is to grow, maybe open another showroom in Council Bluffs, where we can barbecue and continue to support the lifestyles we promote,” he said.

The class will be held outside of the showroom on 23767 McPherson Ave.

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