Chimney Doctor buys Top Hat Chimney Sweeps

Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec / Ray Johnston of Top Hat Chimney Sweeps works on a woodburner on Tuesday. He has sold his business to Randy Sabo, owner of Chimney Doctor of Bedford.

Top Hat Chimney Sweeps has a new owner, but customers shouldn’t notice any difference.

“We are not going to change anything. We will take what Ray (Johnston) had and make sure they get the same service they got from Ray and try to make it even better. He had a good reputation with his customers,” said Randy Sabo, owner of Chimney Doctor of Bedford, who purchased the business from Johnston on Sept. 1.

Johnston started the business in 1980 shortly after he completed a weeklong training course in Stowe, Vt.

Johnston and Sabo had known each other for about 10 years. About two years ago, Johnston, 62, decided he wanted to try and sell his business so he could retire.

“Randy contacted me shortly after a story ran in the Blair Business Mirror (July 2016) about me wanting to retire and sell the business,” Johnston said.

However, at the time Sabo wasn’t quite ready. In the meantime, his sons, Zach and Korey, have become partners and certified chimney sweeps so he decided to again talk to Johnston.

“It was still for sale; it was a good fit,” Sabo said.

Sabo plans to keep the Top Hat name.

“Ray had it for 36 years; we did not want to change it. We want people to understand we are still Top Hat. With the respect and reputation Ray had, it wasn’t a hard decision to buy it. It was an excellent business,” Sabo said.

The purchase enables Sabo, who had served customers in the Bedford, Johnstown and Somerset areas, to double his business.

He and Johnston are working together to make it a smooth transition.

“I am working with him and meeting his customers, learning how to do it his way. I want to learn from him. His clients love him. Some people were in tears when he told them he was retiring,” Sabo said.

Johnston plans to work with Sabo through next year.

“That is part of my exit strategy. I knew I couldn’t do it forever,” Johnston said.

Johnston had been the only chimney sweep in Blair County.

“It is a dying business. It is not an easy business. People don’t grow up saying they want to be a chimney sweep. Ray was one of the pioneers in the business,” Sabo said.