For many who serve the food marketing industry, the term commercial refrigeration contracting is way too restrictive. It only describes a part of what these companies actually do for their customers. Often they're capable of literally designing and constructing the entire interior of a supermarket from the drywall to the floral department. They supply complete refrigeration and air conditioning packages and even insulated panel enclosures to house the mechanical and electrical equipment outside the store.
The Hattenbach Company in Cleveland, OH, is just such a company. From its beginnings in 1941, when it began selling, installing, and servicing refrigeration systems, and building shelving for grocery stores, the contracting firm's history has paralleled that of the grocery industry.
Harry A. Hattenbach, represents the third generation in the company started by his grandfather. He now serves as president of the multifaceted firm, located in a 60,000-sq.ft. Industrial building on Cleveland's near east side.
As the sophistication of the grocery business grew, the Hattenbachs never missed a beat. It was in the late 1950s and early 1960s when grocery stores began to rapidly evolve.
At the same time the stores were developed into "supermarkets," Hattenbach was evolving into a do-it-all "super contractor." At each stage of the development of the food marketing techniques we now take for granted, Hattenbach was ready to help its customers implement them.
According to Harry Hattenbach, the company's goal has been to be a turnkey provider to its customers. Hattenbach takes total responsibility for a store, including design, installation of equipment, service, repair, preventive maintenance, and energy management system installation and monitoring.
Because perishables are involved, Hattenbach Company service is provided 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. After hours, the company uses an answering service which notifies a technician of the problem. Using a computer the technician attempts to first analyze and correct the problem over the phone, before actually going to the facility with the problem.
With a professional engineer on staff, Hattenbach provides complete planning guidance, prints, elevations, and interior decor design, including lighting. Whether it's a complete renovation of a store, or a single department makeover, the company provides the operator with complete cost estimates. Harry explains that, "Operators have a pretty good handle on what it should cost." But, with his company's customers, cost is not the only issue. He says, "If you deliver on time with the quality they expect, you'll have a satisfied customer." Harry Hattenbach credits that fact as part of the reason the majority of his company's commercial refrigeration business is with repeat customers.
On the food service end of its business, Hattenbach has done kitchens, commissaries, fast-food restaurants, tablecloth restaurants, and bakeries.
As its northeastern Ohio home base began to rapidly develop in the 1960s and 70s, with urban sprawl in full swing, it was a natural for Hattenbach Company to take its refrigeration and air conditioning expertise and apply it to other types of buildings as well. The firm gradually expanded its work scope to include HVAC systems in high rise office buildings, shopping centers, industrial and food processing plants, and food service facilities other than grocery stores.
At one point, employment at the firm reached a high of 185 people and its workload was split evenly between HVAC and refrigeration. In the 1980s, however, a recession and the realization that the company needed to again emphasize its core business, caused Harry Hattenbach to retrench and redirect the company. Today, it has 65 employees and 75% of its business is in supermarket design, refrigeration, and cabinetry. Hattenbach Company also refurbishes and sells used supermarket equipment.