Contractingbusiness 920 Cb0311 Rst Backyardbonanza

Backyard Bonanza in Preventive Maintenance

March 1, 2011
For this edition of RST Contractor Insights, Contracting spoke with Frank Watson, president, Watson Refrigeration, Tucson, AZ

After decades of installing commercial refrigeration systems in Mexico, Watson Refrigeration, Tucson, AZ, has taken on a new mission: improving the commercial refrigeration systems in its own backyard.

While it might seem odd that the company is just now taking an interest in the local market, it's important to consider the company's history.

Company founder, James A. Watson, was a master of large-scale refrigeration. His son, Frank Watson, 67, who with his family has run the company since 1996, claims his dad was an early refrigeration pioneer on the West Coast of Mexico. And, as a contractor for the Frick Co. in the 1940s and 1950s, he installed a majority of the ice manufacturing plants found along Mexico's Pacific Coast.

The elder Watson left the Frick Co. in 1962, and concentrated on the plentiful business that he found existed in Nogales, Mexico — selling and supervising the installation of large ammonia refrigeration plants for food producers and food warehousing businesses.

Frank Watson joined him in the Mexico business in 1972, after he had earned a degree in mechanical engineering.

His brothers, Jim and Tom, soon followed.

In 1987, while Jim and Tom remained in Mexico, Frank returned to the states, to work as chief engineer for Pressure Cool Co., Indio, CA, specialists in food preservation machinery . In 1990, he sold refrigeration equipment, and has gradually moved into residential air conditioning and commercial refrigeration. So, while the Mexico business continues to thrive, Frank Watson and his team are just starting to tap into the business in the Tucson market. It's a region, he says, that needs more attention to refrigeration system maintenance, so they're heavily promoting what they call Recommended Maintenance Programs (RMPs).

A local marketing consultant, Court Hall, has recently joined the company, to further expand its outreach and hone its message.

"We've been increasingly getting our name out to the people, following through, and doing a better job of selling," Hall says. "In any business, there will be a range of quality service. We want to be as close to the top of that scale as possible."

"We're calling people, and it's working," Watson says. "They're realizing the importance maintenance has in food preservation and energy efficiency. We're helping customers understand that, when you maintain equipment, it doesn't break down that often. It's so simple, but so true."

Watson Refrigeration's primary customers include convenience stores, restaurants, and any business that uses walk-in coolers. It's landed a major restaurant chain as a customers, and is applying to smaller systems what it's learned from working on larger warehouse equipent.

Frank's sons, John, Paul, and Mike, wife Nancy, and two daughers, Marie, and Ann — are all part of the team. Paul is lead technician, Mike is a mechanical engineer, and John is a crew helper.

The company employs three North American Technician Excellence (NATE)-certified technicians and an installation crew, and its three trucks can be seen motoring around Tucson from dawn to dusk.