Ramsey Heating & Air, Inc. continues its legacy of keeping clients comfortable
Several studies show that family-owned businesses are the backbone of the American economy. And while many family businesses face big challenges, there is still a driving force among those involved in running a family business to honor those who built the company’s foundation generations ago.
Such is the case with the Ramsey family. W.C. Ramsey, or Doc as he was known to his friends, took great pride in doing honest work for an honest price.
“My grandfather was a simple man who devoted his life to serving others,” says Evann Ramsey, President and CEO of Ramsey Heating & Air, Inc. in San Antonio, Texas. “He believed in honesty, hard work and doing a job right and on time. His influence still impacts the way we run our family business today.”
In October 1941, Doc enlisted with the U.S. Air Force and served in the Air Transport Command unit until October 1945. He trained as a sheet metal mechanic and gained his experience from servicing aircraft.
After the war, Doc and his wife, Marguerite, moved to San Antonio where he parlayed his training into full-time positions fabricating ductwork and other sheet metal-related items while working for Walsh Sheet Metal and also Cory Automatic Heating. When the owner of Cory Automatic Heating decided to sell his business in 1954, Doc jumped at the chance to purchase it and renamed the company Ramsey Automatic Heating & Air Conditioning. In the early days, Doc worked out of his garage until he was able to rent an office building in San Antonio.
Doc became a dealer with Bryant Heating & Cooling Systems and focused his business serving the residential market. During the 1960s, Ramsey Automatic Heating & Air Conditioning installed central heat and air systems in many of the subdivisions and sub-cities that were popping up around San Antonio, including Alamo Heights, Castle Hills, Greater Harmony Hills, Northern Hills, Olmos Park and Terrell Hills.
Changing of the Guard
Doc’s son, Terry Ramsey, started working alongside his father when he was 13 years old. Terry, who is Evann’s father, took over the company reins when Doc retired in 1985 and changed the name to T.L. Ramsey Heating & Air, Inc. One of Terry’s early goals was to expand the company’s business by entering the commercial market. His first project in this space was the Spaghetti Warehouse restaurant in downtown San Antonio, which was completed in 1991, the same year that Doc passed.
“Following in my father’s footsteps, I, too, started working for the company when I was 13 years old,” Evann says. “I spent the summers doing administrative duties, computer work and answering the phones. After graduating from high school, I became a full-time employee from 1998 to 2012. I then switched gears and worked for a pharmacy management company for eight years. I had just taken a new position with a local utility company when I learned that my dad’s cancer had progressed, and that the doctors were giving him one month to live. I immediately quit my new job so I could spend every day with him, until he passed in January 2020.”
Terry’s death was a watershed moment for Evann. “I knew how important this company was to my father as well as to many of our employees, especially Dodie Ramsey, who is my aunt,” she says. “Dodie started working with my dad in 2006 doing a variety of administrative duties. More importantly, she was there with him during his cancer battle and helped keep the business running smoothly during his illness. I met with several members of the staff and asked them how they wanted to proceed. Once they told me they wanted to keep the doors open, we decided to collectively put our best efforts into keeping the business going.”
She adds, “We have good bones here, so it made it easy for me to step into a leadership position. Although my dad is gone, the core values remain the same. The one thing we felt we needed to do was to bring the company into current times, so we changed the name to Ramsey Heating & Air, Inc.”
When Evann took over, she says it was important to her that the company would continue to be recognized for being a good neighbor as much as for providing quality customer service. She notes that both Doc and Terry cultivated a culture of treating their customers as family.
“When customers weren’t able to pay their bills, my grandfather would never force the issue,” Evann says. “Instead, he would barter for things such as pies or pecans. When my dad took over the business, he, too, was more concerned about helping people keep their homes comfortable than collecting payment. It wasn’t unusual for him to come home with enchiladas or hamburgers that his customers gave him in lieu of money. My grandfather started the barter system, which my father proudly continued. It’s a great legacy, but so far, nobody has asked me to barter anything!”
But there are certain things that Evann is not willing to concede. The company still hand-fabricates all ductwork for commercial projects from its location in San Antonio. “Most companies today use a coil-line machine for this work, but we are very old school,” Evann explains. “In fact, we still use the same small metal brake that my grandfather purchased to make his ductwork when he first started his company.”
Teamwork, Accountability and Loyalty
Evann cites a culture rooted in teamwork, accountability and loyalty as the reasons for the company’s continued success. “Most of our employees have been with us for many years,” she says. “When my father got the contract for the Spaghetti Warehouse project, he hired Charlie Raz as a sheet metal fabricator and installer. Charlie is still working for us 30 years later. Because we maintain a family atmosphere, we are fortunate in that we have many long-term employees.”
Justin Gavin is another example of an employee whose dedication to the company is apparent and impressive. “I started working for Terry Ramsey doing odd cleanup jobs during the summers,” says Justin, who is now the Service Manager at Ramsey Heating & Air. “Once I graduated high school in 2009, I started working here full time. I soon realized that I wanted to pursue a career in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning field, so I kept asking Mr. Ramsey for more responsibilities and opportunities. He mentored me, he encouraged me and with his support, I got both my [Environmental Protection Agency] 608 technician certification and my contractor license. I am proud to say that I am now the current license holder for Ramsey Heating & Air since Terry’s passing. I give Mr. Ramsey full credit for believing in me and helping me to get where I am today.”
Comfort Is King
Under Evann’s direction, Ramsey Heating & Air has 13 full-time employees and is now certified as a Small Business Enterprise and a Women Business Enterprise through the South Central Texas Regional Certification Agency. They provide a variety of services, including air conditioning and heating installation, preventative maintenance and complete system replacements throughout the greater San Antonio and Central Texas areas. The team also installs ductless cooling and heating, air purification and indoor air-quality systems, and attic insulation. According to the company’s website, its technicians are continuously educated and trained with the latest technology in the industry.
“We want to continue growing our commercial construction business, which is about 60% of our client base,” Evann says. “Our niche is midsized projects such as restaurants, retail stores, storage facilities and schools. But since the residential side is what my grandfather focused on initially, I also want to even out our revenue stream by strengthening that side of the business.”
“I think we may be one of the longest-standing, family-owned air conditioning businesses in San Antonio,” she adds. “We want to assure all of our customers that we are the same company with the same values of honesty, hard work and devotion that my grandfather established and my father continued. It is my sincere hope that our company will still be around for another 66 years.”