Once an HVACR contractor, always an HVACR contractor, right?

Not necessarily. Consider Jerry Elam, who left a full-time contracting business to bake cookies off the coast of South Carolina.

But his experience from his former occupation has been helpful in his new one. His baked goods business has grown so big that refrigeration is vital. And his company’s refrigeration systems have benefited from his expertise and that of his refrigeration equipment suppliers.

Standing in front of the Bohn condensing units at the cookie plant are (from left) Bohn sales rep Ron Andrews, Hilton Head Cookie Co. owner Jerry Elam, and Ed Hendrix of Baker Distributing Co.


Hilton Head Island, SC, has long been known as a Mecca for golfers and beach aficionados.

Jerry and Marcy Elam had been coming to Hilton Head for vacation from their native Pittsburgh for some 10 years before moving permanently to the island in 1986. Jerry Elam had worked in the high-tech field in Pittsburgh, and did general HVAC installation and maintenance work before he and his wife opened a confectionery called the Gourmet Alligator. They bought gourmet foods and then resold them at their store, which also served ice cream, chocolates, and other treats.

The real crowd-pleasers were the homemade cookies baked by the Elams — chocolate chip, chocolate chip walnut, cranberry walnut, double chocolate, and other flavors. The success of their line of cookies caused the couple to change the focus of their business.

A view from inside the freezer, where Bohn evaporators maintain the temperature for proper storage of cookie dough.


“The Hilton Head Cookie Company is about seven years old now,” said Jerry Elam. “Primarily we manufacture cookie dough, which we pre-portion into one-ounce, two-ounce, and three-ounce cookies.” Frozen dough is shipped by the Elams to customers such as restaurants, country clubs, and caterers. The customers, in turn, bake the dough into cookies.

The Elams employ five people at their 7,000-square-foot Hilton Head plant.

“I put in a large freezer and was looking for the right refrigeration system for it. It is needed to freeze the pre-portioned dough in boxes at –15 degrees F.”

Elam noted that his freezer is about 750 square feet. To help in his search for the right refrigeration technology, he contacted Ed Hendrix of Baker Distributing, who suggested the Bohn Beacon System.

Hendrix has been selling Bohn refrigeration for close to 40 years and covers a 75-mile radius from his Savannah, GA, office. Elam told him he was aware of the system and gave the go-ahead.

The system was installed, and Elam reports that it has worked well from the start.

“I’ve got a three-phase system, and so I set up three-phase wiring rather than single-phase,” said Elam. “It runs very efficiently from an electrical cost standpoint.”

Added Hendrix, “We got the design criteria from Jerry. He told us what temperature was required, what amount of cookie dough the system would need to refrigerate, and to what temperature to bring the system down.”

Elam had been aware of a Beacon system installation at a blueberry farm in Georgia. “That got his interest, and then we showed him what the Beacon could do,” said Ron Andrews, Bohn sales representative. “Jerry actually did the installation himself, along with the Air South Inc. service department. He sized two 7-1/2-HP outdoor discus air-cooled condensing units, with smart controller and smart defrost.” Two Bohn three-fan, low-profile, electric defrost evaporators were installed.

The system “holds the temperature right where I want it,” said Elam. “The system runs very smoothly. There are no vibrations in the equipment, so I don’t have a problem with lines jerking on start-up. It does a great job. And the smart controller is wonderful to work with. It is easy to change anything you want to change with it, and it is simple to operate.”

There are actually two Bohn Beacon systems at the plant. “I wanted redundancy,” said Elam. “I wanted to make sure the system was adequate. I have thousands of dollars invested in equipment. Also, I probably have between 25,000 and 40,000 pounds of cookie dough in the freezer at any one time. With this system, I eliminate the unnecessary defrost.”

The system senses frost accumulation and projects whether the system will need to be defrosted again before its next programmed defrost. It eliminates defrosts from the normal defrost cycle that are unnecessary. By eliminating unnecessary defrosts, the customer is able to save on energy and maintain more consistent box temperature.

For more information, contact Heatcraft Refrigeration Products at 770-465-5600 or visit www.heatcraftrpd.com (website).

Publication date: 09/02/2002