Family Air in Tucson began its life under owner James Beard in May of 2006 and in its first year landed a $600,000 commercial contract for a medical corporation that swelled the company’s yearly revenues to just under $1 million. But what began with a bang quickly changed to a much flatter line when the Great Recession took hold of the U.S. economy, putting enormous pressure on small businesses and especially construction related companies.
These days, Family Air has 14 employees and eight installation and service vehicles. The company operates out of 2021 E. 12th St. in Tucson from a 1,200-square foot office, a 400-square foot shop and a double lot for a yard.
“I think we will be growing and in another year or two might take over the yard next door to expand into a vehicle lot and shop,” Beard said. “When we first started out, our business was 90 percent commercial, but then the world changed for us and everyone else with the recession,” Beard said. As commercial work dwindled, Beard reoriented Family Air’s focus.
Beard started out his working career in the framing and drywall trades, and then worked 16 years in the HVAC industry before opening Family Air.
Family Air has done a wide variety of residential work and retrofits recently, it also has a great deal of commercial work in its resume, installing 135 air conditioning units for a town home and apartment complex, working for Ventana Medical Systems in Oro Valley and performing installations for Catalina Contracting. He noted that Family Air was nominated as Trade Partner of the Year in 2012, by Southern Arizona Home Builders Association.
“I started in HVAC at Aztec Air Conditioning and then went to work for American Conditioned Air,” he said. “After that, I was back at Aztec, followed by being a silent partner in Matrix Mechanical. When the owner of Matrix died, the family dissolved.
Beard noted that while he grew up in the HVAC business doing commercial work, the greater number of residential installs and retrofits Family Air has been doing for the past few years has given him a different “I found I like residential work,” he said. “You go into someone’s house as a stranger and have to gain their trust and appreciate what they need for you to do. We like to exhibit at home shows where we can talk with potential customers about what we can do for them, to hear about the problems they may have with their HVAC systems, and figure out a way that we can help them.”
Beard said he recently had a residential customer with a bad air flow problem that had stumped two other HVAC companies to the point they both recommended installing a completely new system. “We took a lot of time to investigate and found that the returns in the house were messing up the air flow, especially where the attic returns were drawing in 140 degree air into the AC system,” Beard said. “We had to tear out ceilings and redo the duct- work, but we were able to solve the problem for the customer.”
Alan M. Petrillo, HVACR Today