Contractor Insights

Contractor Insights

Dave, left, and Shaun Brautigan
Dave, left, and Shaun Brautigan

This is not Curt Brautigan’s Atlanta Refrigeration. But that’s okay, because his sons Dave, 32, and Shaun, 27, have faithfully followed in their dad’s footsteps. Together, they’ve taken the 40-year-old company to new heights of refrigeration service and entrepreneurial success.

Curt Brautigan studied air conditioning and refrigeration at an Atlanta technical school, and went to work for Scotsman as an ice machine specialist. He struck out on his own in 1969, and built Atlanta Refrigeration up to an eightemployee company.

Brautigan says he’s very impressed with the way Dave and Shaun have taken Atlanta Refrigeration to new heights. “They’re doing a lot better than I ever did,” he says, holding back emotion. “We’ve been very blessed.”

Atlanta Refrigeration provides on-demand service for casual dining and fast food restaurants, hotel restaurants, and a small portion of HVAC for retail establishments. And in between all that they’ve added other business ventures that support the bottom line.

Atlanta Refrigeration employs 90 people, 60 of whom are service technicians serving the Atlanta metropolitan area. The company has enjoyed a 150% growth rate for more than six consecutive years. In 2005, it made the Inc. 500 and Inc. 5000. Estimated gross sales for 2007 were $7.5 million.

Dave Brautigan, chief executive officer, was a business management/marketing/finance major at Georgia Tech. He jumped on board in 2001, after a year with Jacobs Capital, where he was active in business valuations. His initial experience included field systems work.

Shaun Brautigan is Atlanta Refrigeration’s chief operating officer and systems technology expert. He started at the company in 1999, and learned the business from his father.

Once they were together, the Brautigan brothers embarked on an intense expansion program that’s included:

  • adding cooking equipment installation and service, and commercial HVAC service
  • a refrigeration service branch and ice making business in the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • a custom refrigeration door gasket company that supplies wholesale distributors
  • a strategic partnership with a major parts and service provider, Heritage Service Group.

Beginning in February, Atlanta Refrigeration Service began to manage service work for Heritage’s customers in the Atlanta area.

Atlanta’s Island Oasis
Atlanta Refrigeration opened the office in St. Thomas in 2006. The prestigious business was a result of word-of-mouth referrals.

“We were working in the Atlanta office of a St. Thomas resort. The resort managers were complaining about the quality of their local refrigeration service,” Dave says. “Based on our work for the resort in the southeast, they hired us to come down to repair a system. Before you knew it, we were sending guys down there every week. It made sense to open an office there.”

Atlanta Refrigeration’s St. Thomas business increased by a phenomenal 50% in 2006. Its business on the 13-mile island adds just under $2 million per year to company coffers.

Atlanta Refrigeration views its technological savvy as a major strength.

“I can perform an asset inventory, keep up with all customers’ equipment status, and respond to calls ASAP,” Dave says.

“If 10 locations call in today, all 10 will get serviced today.”

Employees receive monthly manufacturer training on-site. And if you want to join Atlanta Refrigeration as a technician, you have to correctly troubleshoot “the box,” a dormant system used for testing purposes.

“You might have 15 years of experience, but if you’ve been repairing systems the wrong way all that time, that’s worse than no experience at all,” Dave says. “You can’t work for us unless you’re able to get the box to work. Most can’t get it running, and that weeds them out.”

Atlanta Refrigeration enables and empowers employees in their professional growth.

“Everyone here can see information that’s important to our operation,” Shaun says.

“We have metrics we follow, such as productivity and callbacks. My job is to support technicians and office staff with technology issues, and I don’t micro manage. I’ve walked in their shoes.”

The Brautigans define quality as “no callbacks, and quiet customers,” which means there are no complaints.

No complaints. Just a beehive of activity that shows no sign of slowing down.

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