NORTH LIBERTY- From modest, rural Johnson County beginnings to forging a reputation in Iowa City, A2Z Heating and Plumbing, Inc. now begins an exciting chapter with its new home in the heart of North Liberty.
A2Z's service radius spans from Cedar Rapids to Washington, and according to Owner Darline Horton, the company name isn't just flair.
"There's literally almost something under every letter of the alphabet that we do," she remarked. "Heating, air conditioning, plumbing is the day-to-day, most of the calls that we get. But we also do a lot of the commercial refrigeration work."
Having moved to town Oct. 1, A2Z is eager to continue bolstering its reputation at 165 Ranshaw Way.
"We're just so happy and so excited to be in North Liberty. We've wanted to be here for a while and looked at a few different locations, and (my son) Scott literally drove by this location the day the owner put the sign out," Horton recalled. "I called him immediately, and we jumped on this building so fast."
Horton started the company, as a union shop, with her then-husband Mike, in 2003, out of their rural home between Hills and Lone Tree, turning a spare room into an office. "We had a Morton building outside that we turned into a shop, and put some letters on the truck and off we went," she recalled of the family endeavor. Having to quit her job as Hy-Vee general manager was intimidating, but the gamble paid off, and the company quickly found a home in Iowa City along Highway 1. Initially, A2Z focused on commercial work, but eventually embraced the demand for residential. By 2011, Horton and her son Scott had taken the reigns and soon tripled the size of the company to a total of 10 employees.
"Here we are today, just a wonderful business that I'm very proud of."
Knowledge and versatility
While A2Z can handle a plethora of projects, including backflow testing and duct work, the company also relishes the simple household tasks of a honey-do list, like hanging a ceiling fan or replacing a kitchen faucet.
"Those are fun calls," Horton quipped.
As the company's service manager, Scott holds master licenses in various trades including heating, air conditioning, plumbing, refrigeration and hydronics. "I just really don't there's anybody in the business that knows heating, air conditioning, refrigeration like Scott," his mother said. "Scott definitely inherited that mechanical gene, so to speak."
Scott's wife Tammy serves as office manager for A2Z. While Horton is owner of the company, she says it's a triadic family effort between her, her son and her daughter-in-law that makes A2Z such a well-oiled machine.
"The three of us, absolutely, are equal partners in this business and run the business together."
A natural people person, Horton takes pride in her facilitating role and customer interaction. "I enjoy the satisfaction of sending out good technicians that are trained well, and taking care of whatever problem a person has," she said.
Horton also insists on sending employees to classes whenever necessary to keep their knowledge tuned in to the latest technology.
"I want to boldly say I'll put my guys up against anybody's," she insisted. "So we make very sure that they are trained."
In recent years, A2Z has incorporated a new service into its repertoire. Horton's husband Marshall owns New Castle Homes, LLC, which can help finish the job if, for example, a plumbing issue necessitates tearing out a wall.
"It's a really good partnership business-wise for us, and it let A2Z be able to start doing bathroom and kitchen remodels, which is something we did not do before," she explained.
A place in the community
"The highlight of our business, absolutely, was moving to North Liberty and opening our shop here Oct. 1," Horton said. "We are so proud of this location and the building and to be right on (Highway) 965."
And while the company is finding its footing in a fresh location, the business owner is no stranger to community involvement.
"We're new to having a North Liberty address, but we're not new to helping out," she insisted.
With a granddaughter enrolled as a sophomore at Liberty High School and a member of the Difference Makers fundraising group, Horton has been an avid supporter of the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD), donating to its athletics and upcoming dance marathon.
"To me, there's nothing more important than education," Horton noted. "I'm just happy be able to donate and be a part of those kinds of things."
In that spirit, A2Z is eager to strengthen its relationship with families of the community, hosting a Halloween party/open house Wednesday, Oct. 31, from 6 to 9 p.m. Employees will be present, in costume, to greet guests and give out candy.
"We're hoping people will do their neighborhood trick-or-treating and then put the kids in the car and bring them over," Horton said.
The event will have plenty of goodies for kids and parents, including hot apple cider, punch and treats, as well as games and a "haunted hallway."
"It's a free, very safe, secure event that people can bring their kids to and just to have little extra fun on Halloween night," she noted. "We're really excited about it."