It’s a Gas: Caloric Returns to Heat Up Appliance Segment

Retro brand soon back on the sales floor

In the 1950s, the stylish homemaker’s best friend in the kitchen was her Caloric stove, whose many boasts included built-in clocks, electronic burner ignition and, best of all, a choice of bright pastel tones to match the linoleum. The brand disappeared in the 1990s, but if Michael Lee has his way, Caloric will be back on sales floors by this fall—complete with all those nifty colors to choose from. “It’s a very cool, retro brand,” he said, “and it was those colors that caught our eye.”

Lee’s company, JMM Lee Properties, licenses a portfolio of yesteryear brands like Bendix and Litton but decided to manufacture the Caloric name on its own. New stoves by Caloric will be distributed to high-end retailers and occupy the premium category, but will carry prices about 15 percent to 20 percent less than super-luxe names like Wolf and Viking, which fetch prices as high as $5,000 for a basic four-burner. Younger buyers are unlikely to recall the name Caloric—coined to evoke calories as a measure of heat, not the fattening stuff—but Lee is banking on the retro-chic value of the brand name appealing to any demographic. “We’ll have in-store signage that shows photos of the old ads so we can leverage the historic value,” he said.

Much of that value lays in the range of pastels that the old Calorics came in, so Lee’s plans include the Pantone scale too. While the current prototype has a body of brushed stainless steel, it features bright-red knobs that are a harbinger of what’s to come. Lee plans to offer a range of colored enamel front panels along with a choice of knob colors, allowing buyers to customize their stoves—which was more than any 1950s housewife got to do.