If one were to choose just a single word to describe Leonard de Leur, 65, of Kunkle, owner of DeLeur’s “Back To Basics,” it would likely be “grateful.”
Grateful for his family heritage and subsequent career that “chose him.” Grateful to be alive after a battle with cancer. Grateful for the many “loyal customers” who keep coming back in support of his business. These are just a few of the things for which de Leur expressed his relentless gratitude.
“I always wanted my own business and to do good work and give a good product,” he said, and that’s what he strives for with his fireplace and stove shoppe, located at 166 Old Highway Road, Dallas. “We do a good service. We sell a good product.”
de Leur was born in Sliedrecht, Holland, where his father and ancestors were in the masonry construction business. He came to the United States at about 4 years old. Although he said he doesn’t remember much from that age, he still recalls sliding back and forth across the deck of the ship with his brother on their journey over the sea.
His first home in America was in Washington state, after which he moved to New Jersey. From there, he landed in the Back Mountain, a place he likes for its beautiful countryside and “small town” atmosphere.
“Everybody knows everybody,” he said.
He started mixing cement around the age of 8 and, as he grew older, learned all he could about the family business in constructing everything from buildings to chimneys. His own business eventually evolved into the specialization of chimneys and fireplaces. Although he said he technically started the business in the early 1970s and it was corporated in 1985, the business officially opened at the current location in July 1989.
Then came an unexpected and almost fatal obstacle: de Leur was diagnosed with colon cancer.
The most difficult aspect of going through the chemotherapy treatments, he said, was his inability to perform his duties at DeLeur’s.
“‘Back To Basics’ is me,” he said. “Everyone is here to do something, and this is what I do.”
After a hard fight, however, he now takes pride in his status as a five-year cancer survivor, and says he is “in awe and humbled” to still be alive.
Today, the shop, which was converted from an old barn, continues to expand as the showroom takes on both a rustic and modern feel, according to de Leur’s daughter, Lindee de Leur Bara, 39, of Centermoreland.
“Our showroom displays a very large amount of working units so you’re able to see exactly what you’re getting and how it operates,” she said. “Currently, we have over 30 heating units that we can turn on and double that amount in floor displays. Our showroom was once a working barn here in Kunkle so when we do additions and modifications, we are mindful of that rustic theme. With more modern and contemporary styles of gas fireplaces coming out, we are trying to incorporate that aspect into our displays. Something new is always brewing here.”
In addition to the fireplaces and stoves, DeLeur’s offers a variety of stove, fireplace and chimney maintenance products, wood, kindling, bagged coal, wood pellets and more. The shop also services and repairs the products it sells.
Bara said perhaps the most unique aspect of the shop is the product itself and its ability to provide the customer not just with heat, its practical use, but with a feeling as well — a nostalgic feeling of “home.”
“Many customers who come in,” she said, “love to look at our old display models and say, ‘Oh I remember when…’ or ‘at my grandmother’s house I remember warming my feet’ or ‘we used to toast our bread this way.’ There are just so many good feelings invoked by what could be called an appliance. That doesn’t happen with a refrigerator or washer.”