Three generations of the Beesley family, all born and raised in Southgate, have helped keep Downriver families seasonally warm or cool, while operating out of a local historic farmhouse.
Flo-Aire Heating and Cooling moved the farmhouse to 15761 Eureka Road in Southgate, west of Dix-Toledo Road, in the seventies, from the building’s original location at Dix-Toledo and Eureka, when a shopping center was planned for the site.
Patriarch and first-generation heating and cooling entrepreneur Loren Beesley, who started his business in 1955, moved his business into the farmhouse in the early seventies.
The historic farmhouse, which was built in the late 1800s, was originally part of the Schaefer farm, long before Southgate became a city.
When licensed electrician Brian Schaefer joined Flo-Aire last year, as a partner to head up an electrical division, the Beesley family learned that Schaefer was related to the original family who built the farmhouse.
“The Schaefers were a big family name in Southgate, and farmed pretty much all of Southgate when it was still part of Ecorse Township,” Flo-Aire partner Robert Molnar said.
Molnar, who also manages William Molnar Roofing in Brownstown Township, joined Flo-Aire in 2017 as a business partner.
He said Flo-Aire Heating and Cooling has strong roots Downriver.
“Though we work with cutting edge technology, we do it with old-fashioned hard work and dedication,” Molnar said.
He said the Southgate Flo-Aire partners share a passion for the construction trades and for an old-school work ethic, which springs from the Beesley and Schaefer families’ farm legacy, and said the company finds its skilled workforce locally.
“Some of the best construction mechanics come from Southgate, thanks to a rich history and a wonderful construction trade program at the high school,” Molnar said.
He said they send all their apprentices through a four-year program, administered by the Southeast Michigan Construction Academy.
“Once apprentices complete the four-year electrical or HVAC program, they become a qualified journeyman,” Molnar said.
He said Flo-Aire pays the $3,000 annual tuition so the young apprentices aren’t burdened with debt at a young age.
Molnar said the heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC trade, combines knowledge of the plumbing, electrical, gas, piping and mechanical trades.
“A lot of the programs that we work with are computerized, so there is a lot of technology that goes into the new heating and cooling apparatuses that are out there,” Molnar said.
He said that during the pandemic, there were a lot of homeowners who needed their services, and they have been generous with payment plans for people whose livelihoods have been hit hard by the coronavirus.
Molnar said they took another hit from the owner of three apartment complexes, for whom they replaced many heating and cooling units, who is experiencing a significant loss in rental revenue because of the pandemic, and consequently can’t continue to pay Flo-Aire for its work.
He said people are becoming more aware of bacteria and airborne viruses as a result of the pandemic, and are changing their filters and getting service more frequently.
“There’s some new ozone items that will kill 99 percent of the bacteria and viruses that are airborne,” he said. “There is U.V. style, there is ozone style, and homeowners are putting them in.”
Molnar said it is roughly a $500 material and labor cost to install a home system.
“I don’t think the average person would need it, but it gives a level of comfort to anybody who is concerned at this point,” he said.
Molnar said repeat business, recommended from one generation to the next, is their biggest source of clients.
“We have customers that are in their nineties, that their original system was installed by Flo-Aire, and it is the only company that they want to work on their stuff,” he said.
Molnar said the character of their employees make them unique.
“They are all local people who you can trust in your home,” he said. “We hire for character. If they are good people, and we can work with them, then we can teach them the skills.”