It’s always good to hear of a generational transition in local business, but A K Brown could actually be traced back further than father to sons.
Partners Allan and John Brown have followed in their father Keith Brown’s shoes in running the commercial refrigeration and HVAC services company that he founded in 1983. Yet their grandfather and great-grandfather were really the pioneers in the industry here.
An English immigrant, in 1910 great-grandfather John became section foreman on the railway at Aldersyde. A survivor of being shot in the chest by a German sniper at Vimy Ridge, John was relocated to Midnapore when the station was closed. His son Allan, after serving as a bomber pilot in the Second World War, joined Trotter & Morton as a plumber and worked through the responsibilities of a project manager, lead estimator and eventually partner in the firm.
Keith began his career with Reggin Mechanical and then decided that with his journeyman’s papers and hand skills in all things mechanical, he was ready to start his own company, focusing on refrigeration and air conditioning.
Keith’s sons Allan and John were brought up on the family farm, just to the west of Okotoks, and the boys became very good at fixing all kinds of things mechanical.
Although they had been helping out their father since he started his own company in his Midnapore garage, they both started their working life outside of A K Brown.
John was in the oil and gas industry for five years on service rigs in the Grande Prairie area — an adventure he says was tough, but it was where he grew up and learned people skills as well as valuable experience in fixing many types of equipment. He brought that experience to A K Brown in 2017.
Allan chose to get his working experience as an apprentice in the residential construction industry, but joined the family firm 15 years ago and became general manager.
Today, Allan oversees administration, sales and capital management, while John looks after all things mechanical, business development and relationships with key accounts.
That account list is impressive list that for many years has included Fairmont Hotels, Calgary Airport (helping to ensure travellers have a good experience), the Calgary Board of Education (looking after chillers and refrigeration), and other critical infrastructure, such as wastewater treatment plants.
The company does not work on new construction but focuses entirely on mechanical services and retrofit projects.
A K Brown is also working on some unique design-build projects that focus on sustainability. A retrofit at Heninger Toyota is reducing natural gas consumption while producing 120 kw of electricity at the dealership.
It is expected that as buildings get older there will be a huge need for more efficient mechanical, lighting, and security and fire safety integrated systems.
The staff has grown to 75, mainly by hiring at helper level and training employees to develop within the company. A huge benefit to them has been A K Brown’s state-of-the-art training lab with a variety of equipment. Morning classes are held that enable apprentices to be well ahead of the game before they apply for certification at SAIT.
The brothers have been very adept at staying at the top of their industry and recently secured a new partnership with Distech Controls to offer clients top-of-the-line automated controls, connecting people with intelligent building solutions through forward-thinking technologies and services.
For A K Brown, it’s been 40 years in business and the future looks great, allowing father Keith to spend more of his well-earned time on his farm.
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Earls Restaurant Group is set to open its latest Calgary location on September 21 in Southcentre Mall.
Located on the southeast corner of the mall, the new Earls — replacing the Macleod Trail South restaurant that closed last week — is a spacious 7,065 square feet with a 1,135 square foot glass covered patio. Designed by Earls internal design team, it boasts a “Mountain Meets the Prairies” interior with modern lines and refined rustic materials.
Kudos to Earls for displaying works by 19 local artists to help beautify its exciting new location.
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David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at calgaryherald.com/business. He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at [email protected]