By Vivian Collings
After 47 years of service to Haliburton County, Barker Heating and Cooling is closing its doors.
The long-time heating contractor sold their business to Kegel Heating and Cooling with the deal closing on Aug. 2.
Steve Barker, former owner and manger of Barker Heating and Cooling, decided to sell the business to prepare for retirement in the coming years.
“I’m quite happy to be getting out. I’ve done my time. It’ll be nice to be here and still be working for a couple years minimum. I would like to thank all of my customers for their years of business and support and to let them know that Kegel’s will take great care of them.”
Barker will be staying on for the next two years, and three of his HVAC service staff are now Kegel employees.
Owner and president of Kegel Heating and Cooling, Tim Kegel, said, “I worked with Steve for four or five years about 20 years ago at Barker Heating and Cooling. We had a pretty close relationship. I wouldn’t have wanted to buy any other business.”
The decision to purchase Barker Heating and Cooling came from a need for skilled employees.
“The biggest factor in purchasing Barker’s is that it’s really hard to find trained people in the HVAC trade up here. I knew by taking Barker’s over, I would get the skills from his experience and his workers’ experience. You could get someone from the city who has 20 years of experience, but they could only have experience in one area of the services we offer,” Kegel said.
Kegel also explained why Barker chose to approach him about the desire to sell.
“It’s hard to sell a family-run company, especially up here, because nobody wants to buy since the owners usually wear 10 different hats. It’s a really hard sell, so Steve approached me a while ago about it, and we made it work so that it would work for both of us.”
Kegel has not purchased Barker’s property, so the new employees will work from Kegel’s newly-built 12,000 square-foot building.
In their newly-built warehouse, Kegel Heating and Cooling has a board room to be able to bring in factory-authorized trainers to train rather than sending employees to the city.
“With having more employees, we can offer more training in-house. We also help pay to get some of the young guys’ training that come here,” he said.
Barker’s late father, Don Barker, owned and operated their business from 1975 to 2000 when Steve took over as manager. In 2009, Steve bought the company from his parents.
“We’re getting all of Steve’s knowledge, and that compiled with our knowledge, we’ll be the most experienced HVAC company in the Haliburton Highlands area. As the company grows, we’ll be able to service customers better with a larger employee base,” Kegel said.
Another reason for expansion was the high demand of HVAC services that was influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There were a lot of people up here that were building during the pandemic. I think Muskoka is getting saturated, and it’s just getting too expensive to buy property and build out there, so people are moving this way. Also, being able to work remotely, people are selling their places in the city and renovating places up here. Year after year we’re growing, and every year is better than the last. The last two years have been the best two years ever,” Kegel said.
“We’d like to thank the community supporting us to grow to the point where we can make a move like this and assure Barker customers that we will take as good a care of them as Steve,” Kegel said.