Esther Price Candies has invested in high-end heating and cooling equipment to keep the environment - and its chocolates - perfect in each of its retail locations.

There are very few sensory experiences that equal walking into a candy store. If the smell isn’t enough to get your mouth watering, there’s the visual appeal of the tables displaying light, dark, and white chocolates glistening under the fluorescent lights.

What can ruin the experience is if those chocolates have lost their shiny appearance, due to improper temperature and humidity levels. Chocolate is prone to taking on a whitish film if not stored at precise conditions, and while that film doesn’t ruin the taste of the candy, its appearance is a definite turn-off.

Dayton, Ohio-based Esther Price Candies knows all about storing its premium chocolates at the right conditions. To make sure its candies are always tempting, the company has invested in high-end heating and cooling equipment to keep the environment - and the chocolates - perfect in each of its five retail locations.


Esther Price Candies has been in business for 81 years, and its vice president, Doug Dressman, is very particular about the temperature and humidity levels in the retail locations. “We try to keep our stores around 68°F, and the humidity also has to be kept low - around 45 percent - because moisture can discolor the coated candies.”

Dressman knows what he’s talking about because he’s the one who installed the HVAC systems at several of their stores. He didn’t start out in the heating and cooling industry. In fact, he began his career at Esther Price Candies about 30 years ago, working in the maintenance department. “It was hard to get somebody to come over and work on our equipment, so I went to school and got an HVAC license.”

From that point on, he worked hand-in-hand with Kerry Ward, territory manager, The Habegger Corp. (the local Bryant distributor), in order to purchase the best possible heating and cooling equipment for the company’s manufacturing plant and its five retail outlets, all located in Ohio.

Three years ago, the company built a store in Centerville, Ohio, and Dressman worked with Ward to determine what kind of equipment he would install. They decided on Bryant’s Evolution® system, as it would best meet the close temperature and humidity tolerances required in the candy stores.

“They put in Evolution 95i furnaces, which are gas-fired, high-efficiency variable-speed furnaces,” said Ward. “They also installed Evolution two-speed 16 SEER air conditioning systems with Puron, and they all have low ambient controls. Because it was new construction, there were some outside air requirements, so the Centerville location has energy recovery ventilator units as well. This particular location also has electronic air cleaners and all the stores have zoning.”

Ward added that one of the reasons why the Evolution system was chosen is its Perfect Humidity™ feature, which can dehumidify without a call for cooling. The Perfect Humidity function consists of the variable-speed blower system working in concert with the Evolution Control to remove up to 30 times more moisture than a standard system.

The air conditioning systems installed at two of the candy stores consist of two-speed 16 SEER systems with R-410A with low-ambient controls.


Dressman was very pleased with the system installed at the Centerville location, because there were no problems or callbacks. He was so happy that he decided to install the Evolution system in the store that was recently finished in Clayton, Ohio. That location proved to be a bigger challenge, because it consisted of an 88-year-old farmhouse that was renovated to house a candy store.

“We took out floors, walls - everything right down to the 2 x 4s. We had to take out almost the whole middle floor in the building and raise it up and build a floor,” said Dressman. “Installing ductwork up through these old walls was also time consuming. We probably could’ve built a building twice the size for what we put into that old farmhouse, but it looks really neat.”

The end result is impressive, and even better, there have been no problems with the system in this location either. The system is also very energy efficient, and while this wasn’t the top priority for Dressman, it certainly doesn’t hurt. “Energy efficiency is a factor, but we mainly wanted equipment we could rely on. Even if you have energy-efficient equipment installed, you could have a lot of callbacks, and you’ll just end up eating your dollars elsewhere.”

Ward noted that there has been more interest in higher-efficiency equipment lately, and many customers are starting to ask about green products.

“There was an article in the paper recently about high-end condos that are all going green. They’re all going to have higher-efficiency furnaces. A lot of the home builders we’ve seen in the past have been stuck on minimum efficiencies, but they’re now starting to put their arms around some of these higher-efficiency products.”

There are two more Esther Price locations that will also benefit from the higher efficiency Evolution systems, as the company plans to move one store to a new location and also start retrofitting its Cincinnati store. And Dressman plans to purchase the equipment from Habegger and handle the installation of these new systems himself. “It’s really good equipment, but what it really comes down to is the working relationship we have with Habegger. They take care of us, and that means a lot.”

To help contractors learn more about the equipment available that can meet customers’ needs, the Johnstone Supply branch in Grand Rapids, Mich., offers training classes on a variety of topics, including how to sell high-end equipment.

Sidebar: Sold on High-End Products

As noted in the article, distributors are finding that more developers and homebuilders are choosing higher-efficiency equipment for their projects. Jeff J. Meehleder, branch manager, Johnstone Supply, Grand Rapids, Mich., agrees, noting that people are willing to pay more for a quality product. The key is, it has to be worth it.

“There’s a lot of high-end equipment out there that produces real benefits to the consumer who is purchasing it,” said Meehleder. “High-end equipment usually means energy consumption savings, and more importantly, it means comfort and health benefits to those who reside in the home where the equipment is functioning. Contractors have to find out the needs of their customer and determine the right equipment that will meet those needs.”

To help contractors learn more about the equipment available that can meet those needs, Johnstone Supply offers many different training classes on a variety of topics, including steam humidification, IAQ, and geothermal systems. Another topic is how to sell high-end equipment, and the goal is to have contractors understand that they need to listen to customers and consider their needs, rather than deciding what type of system the customer is willing to buy.

“When it comes to high-end HVAC, contractors sometimes assume that customers won’t pay for it. We advise them to stop making the decision for the customer, and instead, ask the right questions to get them going, and listen. A proper qualifying session with the homeowner will determine what customers really need, which is often high-end equipment - particularly if they have children with allergies.”

Meehleder provides his own testimony to customers. He installed a high-end system in his home, which consists of a Goodman 16 SEER air conditioner and 95 percent variable-speed furnace. He has HEPA filtration and UV lights, and is considering zoning. “I’m about as high-end as you can get without getting ridiculous,” he said. “But my bills are not only way lower now that my equipment is properly sized, I’m consuming much less gas, and I’m more comfortable. That’s why you go high-end.”

The opportunity to sell high-end equipment is available to every contractor. According to Meehleder, “It all comes down to energy consumption and health. If a customer has those two needs in the household, there’s a great chance the contractor is going to sell a high-end system.”

Publication date:06/23/2008