Editors Note: This article first appeared in the March issue of MN Valley Business.
Keith High was looking for an employment opportunity that would allow him to be closer to his family when Schneider Heating of Mankato became available for purchase in 1978. Changing the company’s name to Northern Comfort, Keith’s focus consisted of heating, cooling and plumbing. At that time, Northern Comfort was located on Dewey Street.
“It was kind of a nice incubator area,” Keith said. “There were a lot of nice warehouses over there. When they would become available, we’d rent them. You could always keep getting more space.”
Keith’s wife, Peggy, joined Northern Comfort as a business manager in 1985. Their two boys, Chris and Greg, began working at the family business part-time as teenagers. Chris recalls spending many Saturdays insulating, painting or sweeping floors, as way of helping out. Chris and Greg went full-time in 1991 and 1994.
Northern Comfort moved to its current location on South Bend Avenue in 1996. Today, Keith and Peggy have semi-retired from the business. Chris has moved into the role of General Manager and Greg takes care of installation and service. A little over a year ago, Chris’ wife, Brooke, joined the mix as the new business manager.
“I kind of help with the detail work,” Keith said. “I also focus on sales. Peggy still looks over the end results in the bookkeeping area.”
“We use the term “semi-retired” loosely,” Chris said.
MN Valley Business: How has technology advanced the heating and cooling business?
Chris: I think the efficiency and the safety built into the systems are incredible. Today, we have remote access, so it’s possible to change your thermostat from your phone. It’ll even email you if it senses trouble or if there is a problem with the furnace. The average furnace is also 33 inches tall compared to some of those big monsters we had to take out in pieces. Those things were like five foot tall by five foot long and three foot wide.