Jim Bostaph, owner of Black Goose Chimney which opened in 1993, found this new line of work in Hampton Roads after working as a real estate agent his first eight years here.
After his and wife Barbara’s second daughter was born, he realized he wanted more family time. To reduce his workload, the couple looked at many businesses to purchase before they met the man who owned a chimney sweep business.
“Since everything was already in place I thought, ‘How hard can it be?’” he says.
Six months after opening Black Goose Chimney Sweep, Bostaph discovered the National Chimney Sweep Guild (NCSG) offered seminars and workshops, which he attended. He hired his first part-time employee two years into the business and first full-time worker in 1997.
“At the time, I had a Mazda 626 with a trailer,” he says. “Currently, we’re running four vans and a pickup truck with three flatbed trailers for hauling larger equipment.”
Bostaph began teaching in 2005, the year he restarted the Virginia Chapter of the NCSG with other professionals. This association morphed into today’s 70-member Mid-Atlantic Chimney Association (MACA), which facilitates seminars and workshops.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), publisher of the national standards for chimneys and vents, recommends homeowners inspect annually and clean when needed. Black Goose recommends spring/summer chimney inspections.
Sweeping is only about 17 percent of Black Goose’s business. The balance of its work is maintenance, repair, rebuilding and installing gas logs/fireplaces, etc.
NFPA standard inspections range from Level 1 annual, limited visual inspection and maintenance; Level 2 inspection, which adds use of a close-circuit camera sent up the chimney to view otherwise inaccessible areas of the flue; and, Level 3 inspection, a destructive inspection where Black Goose removes bricks from the fireplace to see behind them and inspect flue installation.
“A Level 3 inspection is usually part of a forensic investigation,” Bostaph says. “To me, this drives home the need for trained sweeps. We’ve seen illegal installation of vent-free gas logs installed in a baby’s bedroom and fireplaces put back into service though the chimney had been removed.”
“Having used many service people in the past 15 years, their business tops the list for knowledge, courtesy, concern for my comfort and completing the job, leaving my home with NO MESS,” Newport News homeowner, Virgie Williams, says. “It was like the good old days.”
Chimney sweeps still use brushes today, but much of their work is performed with power drills and rotary whips. The coat tree inside Black Goose’s office holds several top hats similar to the ones chimney sweeps wore long ago.
Black Goose employs six people in the field and three in the office, plus Bostaph.
“Hiring us was probably right up there with the best thing he has done,” manager, Patty Arnold, says of Bostaph’s decision to bring on his administrative staff. “People stay here a long time because it’s a nice place to work.”
Bostaph teaches nationwide. He will be teaching the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certification course in Richmond in October. He and his colleagues have written a Department of Labor-approved national apprenticeship program for chimney sweeps through NCSG. He values leaving a legacy of teaching and training other sweeps.
“That’s a program we’re rolling out nationwide,” he says. “It will provide a track for trainees and for veterans to use their G.I. Bill to complete.”
Bostaph is the organist at Saints Constantine and Helena Greek Orthodox Church. He and Barbara, a CPA, play piano together at their home, which they share with four cats. Their older daughter, Emily, is expecting their first granddaughter in December. Daughter Sarah is engaged and lives in Richmond. The couple enjoys classical music and will go to a symphony orchestra one month and to hear a rock band the next month. They enjoy wine tasting and collecting. They travel with another couple to international wineries. Bostaph’s favorite vineyards are in Croatia and his favorite wine is Old World Red.
During their normal course of business, Black Goose finds people who can’t afford necessary repairs, such as a woman who had a dangerous situation with a wood stove (her sole source of heat). Bostaph and staff found suppliers who donated materials, and Black Goose provided the labor through the Mid-Atlantic Chimney Association. The Department of Social Services also calls them to do jobs covered in their modest energy budget.
In the last few years, Black Goose has repaired 106 fireplaces and chimneys at The University of Virginia. “We were there for 14 weeks, working on the fireplaces on the lawn and the range,” Bostaph says.
“Our most widely recognized certification is from CSIA,” Bostaph says. “If we’re too busy to get to a regular customer, we recommend other local CSIA-certified sweeps.
“My strongest desire is to raise public awareness of chimney and venting safety by bringing 21st-century technology to a centuries-old trade,” he says.
TO THE POINT:
Black Goose Chimney, Inc.
Address: 728 Bluecrab Rd. Ste. D,
Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Jim Bostaph