By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Comfort Engineering installed the first air conditioner in Tupelo in 1936, but don’t ask Bob Wiley how many more the company has installed since.
“I wouldn’t know,” he said with a smile.
These days, it’s difficult enough to keep track of the air conditioning installations, repairs and inspections Comfort Engineering does. With temperatures hovering near triple digits, the company’s 20 employees are busy working on jobs within a 50-mile radius of Tupelo.
Little wonder that the company can’t stop and celebrate its 75th birthday.
“We’ve not really had time to think about it,” Wiley said. “Things haven’t slowed down.”
Wiley’s father, Tom, joined the company in 1956. Bob’s son, Matt, also works for the company, representing the third generation to be in the business.
The founder of the company was N.B. Buchanan, who drove a Model-T to the New Jersey headquarters of the air conditioning company Carrier to land a franchise. It was in 1902 that Willis Haviland Carrier invented the first modern electrical air conditioner.
“They figured if he was going to drive all that way from Tupelo in a Model-T, he could go ahead and sell it,” Wiley said.
Buchanan’s first commercial installation was the R.W. Reed Department Store, and his first residential installation was in the home of Harry T. Rutherford, a long-time Daily Journal editor.
In 1952, Comfort Engineering moved to its current location on North Gloster Street.
The company has been a Carrier dealer from the first day it opened in Tupelo, and both businesses stand by their product.
“Last summer, we changed out a 1955 unit at Tupelo Hardware,” Wiley said. “We also recently worked on a ’58 unit in Okolona, and it was still chugging along.”
And some 1953 Carrier units recently were put back into action after being out of commission for a few years.
Wiley, who joined the family business in 1979, said Comfort Engineering’s work is about evenly split between residential and commercial jobs.
And while technology has change to make cooling and heating units more efficient today, Wiley advised getting systems checked out before the extreme heat and cold hit.
“We pretty much stay busy year-round,” he said.