Chas Roberts Air Conditioning & Plumbing
- Written by: Molly Shaw
- Produced by: Victor Martins
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
For 72 years, Chas Roberts Air Conditioning & Plumbing (CRA) has helped Phoenix survive the sweltering summer heat. Unlike most companies, CRA is a third-generation, family-owned business, founded in 1942 by Chas and Alice Roberts as a small air conditioning and appliance store. Today, the company is one of Arizona’s largest HVAC providers, offering mechanical engineering and design, new construction, repair and replacement services in heating and cooling, in addition to new commercial and retail plumbing divisions.
Things began to take off as fast as the desert heat can rise for CRA in the early 1960s. Chas and Alice’s son, Chuck, assumed leadership of CRA and established a foothold in residential new construction in the area. CRA opened up offices across Phoenix and into Tucson, Ariz., making room for the third generation.
“My grandparents started CRA as a small business, but it was my father, Chuck, who began to push the company into residential construction,” shares Sissie Roberts Shank, now CEO of CRA. “I started at CRA as a filing assistant in our accounting department in the seventh grade.”
When her father passed away in 1999, Shank assumed the role of CEO. As a young female executive in a male-dominated industry, she began to lead CRA’s team of managers who had watched her grow up over the years.
Learning the business from an early age and spending time in nearly every division of the company allowed Shank to grow as a professional and successfully take charge.
Investing in employees pays dividends
While assuming the role of CEO is no easy task, Shank has risen to the occasion. However, she attributes much of the company’s success to the employees. “As a family-owned company, we treat everyone like family,” shares Shank. “Many of our employees have been with CRA for over 20 and 30 years. Even during the economic downturn we kept our commitment to employee benefits, education and training.”
Shank goes on to note that when Arizona’s housing market began recovering and many experienced a labor shortage, CRA was able to hire additional employees to keep up with the increased demand. “CRA and its customers also benefit from a spectacular Experience Modifier Rate of 0.56, with the national industry average being 1.00,” she continues. “We have had over 3 million consecutive man hours without a job loss time injury.”
Furthermore, in 2013, Shank won the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce IMPACT Award in the Response to Adversity category and was also a regional finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards for her leadership.
It’s a dirty job, but CRA does it
While CRA still serves Arizona, the company is expanding outside of its usual territory. “We have recently opened another office in Albuquerque, N.M.,” reveals Shank. “For many years, we were mainly in the residential market, but with the onset of the housing crash, we had to diversify. We have always been really good on the contractor end so we decided to get more in-depth in the commercial market. We purchased M.J. Schneider, a commercial plumbing company, and expanded our client base from there. CRA has also entered the retail end in residential plumbing, as well.”
When the drain is clogged or there’s a leaky faucet, or even a backed-up toilet, CRA is the one to call for the dirty job, large or small. The company’s plumbing services are carried out by licensed, bonded and insured professionals with years of experience. The team offers residential and commercial plumbing, delivering 24-hour emergency plumbing, water filtrations, drain cleaning, water heating, reverse osmosis, fixtures, sewer and septic, flooding and water conditioning service.
“We’re working more and more with big-box stores such as Lowes,” reveals Shank. “We also fairly recently did all of the commercial plumbing for the FBI building in Phoenix.”
CRA’s new commercial and retail divisions continue to prosper, as well as the demand for high efficiency, sustainable products for the ever eco-conscious, wallet-wise consumer. As a leader in innovation, CRA was one of the earliest adopters of the Energy Star v3 standards in Arizona.
“We pursued the standards at the request of Fulton Homes, a longtime homebuilder and customer in 2010 and we’ve been implementing the new technologies ever since,” recounts Shank. “It was a huge task. New plans have to be re-engineered and checklists must be monitored so we set up a specific division to handle it and it’s gone very well. We’re ahead of the learning curve.”
Pay it forward
After adapting to the demands of the market for more than seven decades, the CRA family believes in paying some of its success forward. “It’s always been part of our philosophy to give back,” says Shank.
In 2009, CRA launched the Chas Roberts Cool Play A.C. Giveaway, inviting the community to nominate deserving families in need of a new air conditioning system through the company website, which Shank announced with the help of Fox Sports Arizona, who also donated four tickets to an Arizona Diamondbacks game. CRA awarded systems to four families in 2011 and has since continued the partnership, giving to numerous families in need.
“We have a lot to be excited about,” reveals Shank. “The market is rebounding and we’re moving in the right direction, expanding into other markets and offering more outside of the areas we’re currently in.”
As one of the largest HVAC and plumbing providers in Arizona, Chas Roberts Air Conditioning & Plumbing continues to keep families and businesses cool with responsive customer service and reliable equipment backed by 72 years of family ownership.
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