Olin Plunkett remembers the days when air conditioning in homes was rare.
The founder and CEO of Plunkett Heating & Air Conditioning Co. Inc. started his company in 1958, when the technology was just hitting the market. Today, the company at 3069 Skinner Mill Road has 30 to 50 employees, depending on the season.
The 89-year-old works closely with his son, Mark, to whom he plans to hand the reins of the business.
Plunkett’s philosophy in business is that “the customer is king and must be treated as such.” He also believes that it’s important to take care of his employees. Some of his workers have been with the company for 20 to 30 years.
“People like to feel that their job is secure. That’s my job – to make sure the system is functioning,” he said.
His son, the company’s president, joined the business full time in 1979. Today, he handles mostly commercial jobs.
“The business will go right on, regardless of whether I’m sitting here or not,” Plunkett said. “The continuity has been set up. That is also looking out for my employees. Sometimes death just shuts the doors on a business. We have a very good relationship. We confer with each other.”
After serving in the Navy in World War II, Olin Plunkett went to work for a company involved in mechanical engineering in 1954. Four years later, he started his own.
“At that time, there was very little air conditioning. Only heating put in houses. Window units were just in the beginning. They were the forerunner of the central air conditioning system,” he said.
Plunkett started his company with two people, doing only new construction.
“There was no replacement work at that time. Now the replacement work is much bigger than the new construction work,” Plunkett said.
Central air conditioning emerged in the early 1960s, Plunkett said.
“We almost had to beg a builder, back then, to put air conditioning in,” he said.
The first project in which Plunkett Heating & Air Conditioning installed air conditioning in every home was at Montclair subdivision. Afterwards, Plunkett got into the apartment business, installing heating and air conditioning in more than 1,000 apartments a year. The business converted 369 units from oil to electric heat, the largest apartment change out in the region at the time, Plunkett said. When the market became saturated, he became interested in the replacement side of the business.
About 20 years ago, Plunkett added a service department to handle customers’ emergency needs. Nearly seven years ago, he started a maintenance department to maintain the efficiency of products. Lastly, he added a finance department to assist customers who needed to purchase equipment.
Mark Plunkett said that many people wouldn’t want to work with their parents, but he treasures the years he has worked with his father.
“It’s been great. We get along well. I’ve always respected him as the boss,” Mark Plunkett said.