The story of A Step in Time is a fun story. In 1991, there was a recession, and many college graduates had difficulty finding a job. Ray graduated from Virginia Tech in civil engineering and encountered the same difficulties, so he attended graduate school at Old Dominion University to attract potential employers. Time passed, and Ray continuously applied for positions at various engineering firms. Finally, Ray landed an engineering job by offering to work for very low wages. This didn’t matter to him because the experience was like a continuation of graduate school. While in graduate school and working for a local engineering firm, Ray had to balance family life with also raising a daughter named Kaitlynn.
Times were tough, and money was very tight. Ray remembered that while he was in high school, he had a very nice lawn business during the summers. On weekends, Ray began to cut lawns to bring in extra money. The business was an instant success! Ray was earning more money on weekends than working full-time at his engineering job. While cutting the lawn at his parent’s house, a family friend named Donny Gummer stopped by. Donny was in his 60s at that time and noticed the lawn business was going great and mentioned that he was considering starting a chimney sweep company. Donny told Ray that while he was in New York, the chimney business was great! Everyone needed a chimney sweep! Donny asked Ray if he would help him start a chimney sweep company and give him advice on how to get customers. Ray agreed to help Donny in the fall when his lawn jobs calmed down and the chimney sweep jobs would start to pick up. When the fall season approached, Ray closed his lawn operation down and was set to begin cleaning chimneys.
The news came!
Donny discussed with Ray that the chimney business was not going to happen. Donny had a full time position at his current job, and they offered health benefits and retirement. He was close to retirement and needed the health benefits. Donny was not going to open a chimney sweep business. Ray was a little disappointed because he closed his lawn business, which could have extended for a couple of months laying mulch or fall fertilizing, so Donny offered an idea! Donny would sell Ray his chimney cleaning equipment for $300, and if Ray liked the business, he could keep cleaning. If Ray did not like the business, Donny would buy the equipment back for the same $300. Donny taught Ray how to clean chimneys for about a week, and then, Ray flew the nest on his own. Ray began to learn everything there was concerning the chimney cleaning and repair business. Ray became CSIA-certified, and Nicole thought of the name, “Step in Time.” Wanting to be first in the telephone book, the name “A Step in Time” was born.
Ten years later, with the help of Ray’s first employee, Matt Watkins, A Step in Time has expanded to seven different states and, by footprint, is the largest chimney cleaning and repair business in the United States.
Ray Gessner, P.E. is the founder and C.E.O. of A Step in Time. He is a licensed professional engineer with master’s degree in civil engineering.
Rufus Jones is the Northern Virginia future franchisee. Rufus has been working at A Step in Time for over 10 years and is a wonderful person.
Frances Verhofstadt is the corporate office manager and has wored in customer service her entire life. She has a wonderful personality and is Ray’s mother in law.
Jeff Hughes has known Ray for over 15 years. Jeff is currently in charge of the corporate expansion of the Greater Richmond area. Jeff is definitely an intelligent and great chimney technician.