Kramer Plumbing and Heating was recognized at Lennox in Dallas with a formal reception. Pictured left to right: Sarah Zimmerman; Mary Zimmerman; Bob Schjerven, Lennox International CEO; Dave Zimmerman; and Mike Burcham, Lennox North Central regional director.
DALLAS - Staying in business for over 100 years is something most small companies don't experience, but Kramer Plumbing and Heating in Medford, Wis., recently celebrated its 100th anniversary as a Lennox dealer. The company was founded in 1901 as a small sheet metal business in downtown Medford, just 1.5 hours south of Lake Superior.

Today, the company is owned and operated by Dave and Mary Zimmerman, who bought the company in 1981 from the Kramer family.

Kramer Plumbing and Heating sets itself apart from many other dealerships with its storefront business, allowing customers to walk in and shop for their plumbing, heating, and cooling equipment.

"Our customers can walk in to buy plumbing equipment to complete the jobs themselves, or they can view the HVAC equipment and talk with a sales representative and order equipment for installation," said Dave Zimmerman. "Our service technicians simply pull inventory off the shelves for jobs, and return the surplus each day for inventory control."

The Kramer technicians have to be experienced and licensed in both heating and plumbing in the event one of the "team members" is out for the day.

"One thing we've really had to do to be successful for so many years is diversify ourselves," added Zimmerman. "We are in such a small market; our town is about 5,000 people, and our area contains about 25,000 people."

Zimmerman's experience with Lennox began early. He grew up with a Lennox furnace in his house and worked at another Lennox dealership straight out of trade school.

"Of all the manufacturers, Lennox equipment is by far the best," said Zimmerman. "I feel honored to be recognized for our 100-year-old relationship with the company. To my knowledge, we're the second oldest dealership around, and it feels great to be associated with such a steadfast name."

Kramer's storefront business in downtown Medford.

IAQ Opportunities Growing

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is becoming a bigger portion of Kramer's HVAC business. "We're getting increasingly more involved in the IAQ market," said Zimmerman. "Now customers are realizing the importance of healthy environments, and IAQ is just one additional way to give our customers what they want, and at the same time, set ourselves apart from the competition."

Using Lennox' online ordering and information tool, DaveNetâ„¢, Kramer orders parts and equipment, receives warranty and engineering information, and more. The company's own Web site and newspaper and radio ads also attract new customers.

"Our most important testimony to our business and most powerful form of advertising is our customer retention and referral," he added. "We operate in a very small community, and people talk. If we didn't do business honestly and effectively, word would be out pretty fast, and we'd lose customers.

"Our customers are so pleased with us, they keep coming back, and they refer their friends. I think that's the biggest key to our business success - putting our customers first."

Publication date: 09/13/2004