Photo by Donald A. Promnitz Tom Howard, CEO of Lee’s Air (left), stands with Ken Mitchell, owner of Mitchell Aire.
Written by Donald A. Promnitz
One of the fastest growing companies in the Valley made a big step in its continued rise with the purchase of another prominent air conditioning company in Fresno.
Last month, Lee’s Heating and Air Conditioning in Fresno finished the acquisition of Mitchell Aire, a Fresno HVAC company with more than 80 years in business. According to Lee’s CEO Tom Howard, about 60 percent of the Mitchell roster will be joining the Lee’s team, bringing their employee count up to 70.
Howard said the conversation about joining forces between him and Ken Mitchell, owner of Mitchell Aire, started at the former Marie Callender’s on Shaw and Marty avenues three years ago, but it wasn’t until this year that Mitchell decided to sell. Mitchell, who reached his 40th anniversary at the family business in 2019, said he felt it was time to retire, and Howard and Lee’s felt like the perfect fit.
With his retirement, Mitchell stated that he plans to help the transition go as smoothly as possible, and is looking forward to volunteer work at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo and his Seventh-day Adventist church.
“Tom has the youth, the energy, the interest in current technology that would benefit our customers and keep our business growing,” Mitchell said. “And be respectful to the business that we’ve established.”
Over the last several years, there has been rapid growth at Lee’s, coming in at a rate of 128 percent between 2015 and 2017. This can be attributed largely to a strong economy, along with updates in software to connect with their customers. However, this growth has all been organic. The selling of Mitchell Aire was the first acquisition ever made by Lee’s, and Howard says it’s been a learning experience.
“I think people were really excited to try this,” Howard said. “Also, the employee that came over from Mitchell have been very open to try new things, so that’s made it really easy to try to work together and kind of figure it out as we go.”
The Mitchell family has served and worked in Fresno for five generations, with Ken’s grandfather starting Mitchell Aire in 1936 specialized in remodeling, replacement and new construction. For the last 60 years, the business has had a contract to work on homebuilder Western Homes’ projects. In addition, Mitchell said they have numerous clients who have been around since the ‘70s. Many of Mitchell’s clients will now be served by Lee’s, which will lead to some adjustments.
“We’re going to have to redo our budget numbers to accommodate the increase in volume,” Howard said. “We’ve already noticed that we closed the deal yesterday, and between yesterday and today, we’ve sold $31,000 of additional revenue in two days just from customers that have called in and want service.”