Next time you visit your local grocers to pick up some meat or produce, take a minute to thank the team at Parson Refrigeration, because it’s likely their handiwork that’s keeping your food fresh.

Edward A. Parson started the company back in 1933. He gave up farming and moved to the city to sell Serval refrigerators, which you can still find today in some cottages. The fridges ran on propane, kerosene, or electricity. After WWII, Avery Parson joined his father’s company and the pair began working in commercial refrigeration. “My father did a lot of work for the Loeb family,” said Stuart Parson, current president and owner of Parson Refrigeration since 1985. “He got into more extensive commercial refrigeration with Loebs, and added many other commercial refrigeration customers during his time running the company.”

Over the years, the company has grown to service some of the biggest players in the food industry. Some of Parson’s major clients include Loblaws, Loeb (A&P Metro), Sobeys, Costco, Farmboy, Tannis Food Distributor, National Grocers and Summit Foods. The company also does work for many local specialty stores. “Today, we do commercial refrigeration for food stores and food warehouses,” Parson said. “We also use our knowledge for special refrigeration projects and applications.”

Parson Refrigeration has designed specialty systems for a -40 C plasma storage freezer, an automobile emission test cell along with many of the larger local storage freezers. They have also retrofitted refrigeration systems in two major supermarkets to fully capture the heat from the refrigeration system and use it to completely heat the store. Eli Tannis, vice president of purchasing for Tannis Food Distributors, said his company has been working with Parson Refrigeration for over 20 years. “We’re in the food distribution business, and refrigeration is vital to our distribution pipeline,” he said. “We’ve had a good partnership with them over the past 20 years, and have used them in various projects.”

As the big food chains continue to build, grow, and renovate, it becomes a challenge to keep up with the workload, Parson said. “As in all businesses, it is a challenge managing the peaks and valleys.” Not only does the company install refrigeration systems, they provide ongoing service to their customers after the project is complete. “Our customers are very unforgiving because food is at stake,” he said. “If and when breakdowns occur, you have to respond quickly. Their business relies on them having product on the counters at the correct temperature to maintain food quality.” Tannis said one of the reasons his company continues to work with Parson Refrigeration is because they are always there to take care of them. “If there’s a problem, they’re here to fix it,” he said. “The service after installation is very important to us. It’s critical.”

Because service is such a crucial part of the business, it can be difficult to find the right people for the job. The biggest challenge to the company’s growth is being able to find skilled people when they are needed, Parson said. “We have to do it with our own forces,” he said. “You can’t take just anybody, even if they have their license. It’s all very specialized.” Parson has an experienced group of technicians who have been with the company for many years. The company’s general manager has been there for 35 years, he said. “That helps our business because our clients like to deal with experienced technicians they’re confident with,” Parson said. “Many of our service personnel have their group of customers that they deal with.” “Most of the technicians we employ completed their apprenticeships here.” Parson said the majority of their apprentices are graduates from the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning program at

Algonquin College

While most of the graduates get jobs in the residential trade, the higher paying jobs are in the commercial refrigeration and air conditioning field. The company receives a lot of applications from individuals who have been in the residential trade and are looking for a bigger challenge.

Another reason the business is so successful is Parson’s active role in the company. “I’m a licensed refrigeration mechanic and professional engineer (mechanical). As the owner in this business, you have to understand the technical issues that we are dealing with.” His visibility in the company allows for close relationships with the clients. When a customer needs a system to be serviced or replaced, it helps that they know who to call to get advice and recommendations.

Because Parson Refrigeration selects the most environmentally appropriate equipment for the project, they require extensive knowledge of all the various refrigeration, HVAC and control products that are available on the market. Parson maintains good relationships with a wide variety of suppliers for this reason.

“We do it all,” he said. “All our own engineering, supplying the equipment, installing it and ongoing maintenance.”

Through three generations of family ownership, the company has had four different locations. They started on Bank Street in 1933 until 1960, when the company moved around the corner to Lewis Street. In 1971, Parson Refrigeration moved again, this time to Somerset Street West, where they spent 37 years. The business then moved to its current location: 37 Capital Drive in the Merivale Industrial Park. “We are still central in the city, just further south” Parson said. “It’s a quiet street, we have lots of parking. It’s a great location for our type of business.” The new office underwent extensive renovations to meet the needs of the business. The new, clean, and professional location is a clear indication that the 84-year-old family refrigeration company plans on being around for a long time to come.

Courtesy: The Ottawa Construction News

Good companies survive, great companies create a legacy. Parson Refrigeration continues to work hard at both. 

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