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Father’s venture leads to 30 years of family business

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The Nesselrodt family and their employees plan a May 31 anniversary celebration. Owners include John Nesselrodt, left, with his wife, Teresa; Trey Nesselrodt, fifth from left; and Sue Cooper Nesselrodt. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

None of the Nesselrodt family necessarily envisioned himself or herself running a heating and air conditioning business.

But life’s circumstances, family ties and dedication kept them working at the enterprise, which is now 30 years old.

Nesselrodt Heating and Air Conditioning is owned by Sue Cooper Nesselrodt and her sons, John and Robert “Trey” Nesselrodt.

On May 31, they plan to celebrate with family, friends and customers, recognizing an endeavor that began from their husband and father’s efforts.

Robert Nesselrodt, known as Bob by many people, had worked for about 10 years for Ralph Burnsworth of Burnsworth-Coll Heating, Air Conditioning and Sheet Metal when Burnsworth retired in 1989.

Burnsworth encouraged Nesselrodt — who the family describes as the best technician in town at the time — to run his own business rather than go to work for another company.

But in 1994, Nesselrodt, 42, passed away, leaving Sue and her sons with a decision to make. Rather than sell or close down, some long-term employees were willing to stay on, and Trey Nesselrodt, then 21, decided to take over the operations side, obtaining the necessary licenses. Sue also decided to continue as the office manager. John joined the family enterprise about 17 years ago, being trained on the job and passing the required exams to obtain his professional license.

Roswell has many heating and air conditioning companies, including others that are family endeavors lasting many years. In fact, family businesses are a large part of the national economy. Most U.S. businesses, 80% to 90%, are family owned, according to a Family Business Review Report, and companies that started as family businesses with some family members still owning equity represent more than 33% of the Standard & Poor’s 500 companies, according to an Anderson and Reeb study.

The Nesselrodts say they have stayed in business in spite of a lot of competition by using some traditional business standards.

“We have always done people right,” John Nesselrodt said. “If we weren’t truthful and honest and fair-priced, we would have closed, who knows how long ago.”

Sue Nesselrodt added, “We have a good customer base. I had good technicians, John and Trey.”

The years have brought many changes. The business has relocated from the Nesselrodts’ home, to a North Main Street and Berrendo Road location, to their current site, a former Burnsworth-Coll building on North Virginia Avenue that John and Trey spent two years renovating. Part of the rationale was a desire to help improve older Roswell buildings and the downtown business district, an effort Trey has been involved in through a couple of downtown renovation projects.

The company also now has an affiliated business, Arco Electric. Trey assumed ownership of the electrical contractor in 2009 because Nesselrodt staff often found that they needed electricians to connect or upgrade electrical connections. That company has about three staff, while Nesselrodt Heating has seven.

The company also has shifted their focus primarily to residential customers and the Roswell area. But the biggest change is how the equipment itself is changing, often controlled and diagnosed with computers and electronics.

A third generation of Nesselrodts might run the business in the future, John said, as his sons and Trey’s son sometimes visit the shop and talk about that possibility. (The family also includes a sister, Laura, who lives in California.)

If that comes to be, it will mean deep and wide roots. Sue Cooper Nesselrodt can trace her connections to great-grandparents who homesteaded in Elida and to her mother’s parents, who had an alfalfa and cotton farm in the East Grand Plains area.

She met her husband in Virginia after her family moved there when she was a child. They married in 1972. After living and working near Washington, D.C., for years, Sue and Bob decided to head back to Roswell in the late 1970s.

Staying and growing a business here might not have been the original plan, but the Nesselrodts have built something special in Roswell anyway.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.