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A&B Heating celebrates 65 years of ‘non-stop service’

Photo submitted to the Times Observer Pictured from left to right are A&B Heating & Sheet Metal Company staff: Tim, Gregg, Dale, Ben, Sam, Dustin, Tyler, Dave, Jack, Steph, Stacy, and Jon.

In 1953, the average house cost a little less than $10,000 and the average wages earned to buy that house were about $4,000 per year.

The country was moving past the Great Depression and World War II. An armistice was signed in 1953 that brought an end to the Korean War.

It was in 1953 that Carl Papalia set up shop as the owner of A&B Heating & Sheet Metal Company. He had returned home just a few years earlier after serving his country in the skies above the South Pacific. Two of his brothers came on board a short time later – Ralph, as part-owner and Joe as a head serviceman.

This year marks 66 years of non-stop service to the Warren County area. “Over 575,000 hours of being on-call” according to owner Dave Papalia. The half-hour for lunch didn’t last very long.

Papalia learned at an early age that the heating and plumbing industry does not have a calendar or a watch. “Trouble comes around anytime so we want to be available,” he said.

As a child in the Papalia household, he recalls his parents taking in customers when they had no heat for the night. There were also occasions when his father came home after a late-night service call with homemade bread or a bushel of apples as payment.

A house that’s too cold or too warm affects different people in different ways, according to Papalia. “During extremes of the year it also brings a little fear,” he said. “Raising the floor or waiting until Monday is not an option when a basement drain is backed up or the furnace is out.”

While you may not be able to predict when an emergency will happen, Papalia has learned that preventive maintenance is the best way to avert an unexpected service call.

Between 90 to 95 percent of problems can be prevented with regular maintenance, according to Papalia.

“We can’t forget that a heating system is basically a fire that’s burning in your basement,” he said. “Our job is to keep it from getting out of control.”

“Fire is a survivalist,” he said. “It wants to live, so if a furnace is dirty or plugged, the fire will go looking for oxygen wherever it can find it and that leads to flame in all the wrong places.”

Many years of service have led to stories of wrong and unusual places.

The business built and sealed the time capsule that’s buried in the courthouse foundation, which is scheduled to be opened in 2076.

There was an occasion where a woman came into the business and placed a container on Papalia’s desk. He asked what it contained. Her reply, “My husband.” Sealing urns has become a not-uncommon request.

There was also an instance where the company’s work may not be considered heavenly but was certainly far-reaching. The sheet metal shop built the scales once held by Lady Justice atop the courthouse. A helicopter was needed to place them there.

One last bit of advice from Papalia: make sure your ductwork is both animal and child-proof. Yes, both have been retrieved.

As year 66 continues, so does the story of a local business connected to the community. A&B covers approximately a 50-mile radius of Warren with 12 employees.

Papalia continued, “we are well aware of the path the past has paved for us but it does not define us in 2019 and beyond. We can’t use it as a rudder because of the famous ‘Pot Roast’ story. Ask your Mom or Grandmother what that is. If you can’t find it give us a call or check out our Facebook page.”

The story isn’t as much about the company as it is about the customers, Papalia said. “It’s our customers who keep the phone ringing and we are thankful for that every day.”

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