Today Reitzel Heating & Air Conditioning is a full-service firm providing residential, commercial and institutional customers with heating, cooling and air treatment services from modern facilities at 665 Superior Drive in Waterloo.
The company, the workforce, the products and services, and the market have all expanded greatly since the day Louis Reitzel convinced his older brother Albert to join him launching Reitzel Heating and Sheet Metal in 1961.
As we approach our 60th Anniversary we look with pride on our history and trace the journey to our present day success.
Times are changing. The baby boom is underway and most new homes being built are gas-equipped with model homes showcasing natural gas heating and appliances. Louis Reitzel has settled in with a firm of consulting engineers in Kitchener and Hamilton where he’d learned the rudiments of heating, ventilating and air conditioning including design. His job is to draw and design heating and air conditioning systems.
- 1961 – Louis Reitzel convinces his older brother Albert to join him in the launch of their two-man company, Reitzel Heating and Sheet Metal to design and install heating systems. As another revenue source they’ll also fabricate and design galvanized steel eavestroughing. They work out of Albert’s house for the first months until business grows enough that they need more space and move to a 2,000 sq. ft. facility on Breithaupt St.
- 1963 – Within a year and half they double the size of their Breithaupt operations as word spreads about the quality and reliability of their mechanical systems. They soon need to move again into an office/warehouse building on Marsland Drive as the business continues to flourish.
- 1965 – The company’s first commercial contract is a heating and air conditioning upgrade for the City Hotel in Waterloo.
Air conditioning is growing in popularity so the Reitzel brothers give up their eavestroughing business to focus instead on heating and air conditioning systems.
- 1969 – By the end of the decade the brothers purchase property for their business on Weber St. in Waterloo, where they’ll stay for 25 years.
Inflation is a growing rapidly worldwide and the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) places an oil embargo on the US in 1973 that prompts a world oil crisis. It’s a difficult decade for consumers who begin looking for ways to save money and reduce their reliance on oil and gas. For Reitzel Heating & Air Conditioning the decade sees a dramatic increase in commercial projects while their residential business remains strong.
- 1970-9 – Referrals keep their residential business steady and the company is steadily growing its commercial business. Projects include mechanical systems work for 25 Ponderosa Restaurants from Brampton to Thunder Bay in the early 1970’s and the installation of rooftop air conditioning units on more than 15 of the first Tim Horton’s restaurants in southern Ontario.
- 1978 – All of Louis Reitzel’s sons work part-time at the family business afterschool and during school vacations and eldest son Alan becomes the first to join the company full time in 1978. He quickly obtains both his gas pipefitter’s license followed by his sheetmetal license, going on from there to residential and commercial installations. Later he’ll develop expertise in commercial design and estimating.
While the world deals with an early decade recession and rapid technological change, Reitzel is going through major changes of its own, as the next generation of Reitzel’s begin taking on increased responsibilities in the growing family business and the company changes its operating name to Reitzel Heating & Air Conditioning
- 1981 – After twenty years, Albert Reitzel retires as co-owner of the business selling his interest to his brother Louis who then welcomes his former Carrier rep John Billawski into the firm as a partner for the next ten years.
- 1984 – Louis’s son Don begins his path to becoming service manager with an apprenticeship in refrigeration and obtaining his gas pipefitter’s license.
- 1985 – Son Brad Reitzel joins his father and brothers in the family business and will spend the next 15 years in the field gaining ICI experience (industrial, commercial and institutional) to bolster the management team. Like his brother Alan, Brad also holds his gas pipefitting and sheetmetal licences.
- 1989 – The company purchases land to build a new larger corporate facility but is too busy to begin the project for another year.
The economy takes a downturn as the decade begins but an economic boom will begin by 1992. Reitzel Heating & Air Conditioning makes big changes for the company just as economy is about to swing back to prosperity.
- 1991 – Thirty years after their father launches the company, brothers Alan, Bradley and Don Reitzel join him as partners, buying out partner John Billawski. The company is once again family-owned and operated and begins construction of their new headquarters.
- 1991 – The economic slowdown leaves Reitzel Heating & Air Conditioning with time to work on their new headquarters at 665 Superior Drive in Waterloo. When employees came back from a job with nothing else to do for the day, Louis Reitzel would send them over to work on construction of their headquarters, paying them for the work rather than laying them off. Family members worked two nights a week and on weekend constructing the new 12,000 foot building.
- 1992 – The opening of Reitzel’s Superior Drive headquarters makes business headlines for recycling Kitchener-Waterloo’s past. During construction, Reitzel salvaged a number of materials from local landmarks under demolition including pre-cast concrete wall panels, fixtures, plumbing fixtures and ceiling tiles from stores torn down to build City Hall. Their best find, was light oak panelling, door and cupboards from the former Economical Mutual building. The wood alone was valued at $30,000 but is salvaged and recycled into Reitzel headquarters for just $2,500.
A New Century
Rapid technological change is transforming every industry and how people live their lives. Climate Change and the environment is a growing focus of attention with particular attention in Canada to energy conservation and improved efficiency.
- 2001 – Always eager to upgrade equipment and retrain employees, Reitzel expands its sheet metal fabricating shop by 3,000 square feet and adds a state-of-the-art Autofold duct making machine and a high-tech plasma cutting machine. Reitzel has a growing commercial division with major projects underway for ATS, RBJ Schlegel Group long-term care and retirement homes in several cities, and the Waterloo Region District School Board among others.
- 2005 – Present – History repeats itself as another generation of Reitzel’s embrace the family business as full-time employees. Lou’s grandson Josh becomes a service technician in 2005 working in both the commercial and residential divisions and his cousin Caleb begins an apprenticeship in 2017 on the sheet metal fabrication side of the business.
More than half a century of quality workmanship, and dedication to both residential and commercial customers continues to grow the business and its sterling reputation. Several million dollar contracts have been completed by the family business with the size and scope of projects continuing to expand.