It All Started In 1936…
On July 11, 2011, Comfort Engineering completed its 75 years as a Carrier Air Conditioner Dealer- a few firms over the nation have been in the air conditioning business for a quarter of a century. The firm was founded in 1936 by N.B. Buchanan, a graduate engineer of Auburn’s 1907 Class. He had been a Ford dealer and a resident engineer with the Public Housing authority during the 1930s. Mr. Buchanan took a Carrier refrigeration course and this lead to the decision that he would like to be a Carrier dealer.
Mr. Buchanan drove his Model T Ford all the way from Tupelo to Newark, NJ, which was Carrier Headquarters at the time and talked to Jack Bickle, then in charge of Carrier Dealer Organization. Amazed that Mr. Buchanan drove so far in his Model-T, Mr. Bickle told the Mississippian that while he did not have a strong background of business success, any man who would drive that far in a Model-T certainly wanted the A/C business. And, yes, he could have his Carrier franchise.
Upon returning to Tupelo, Mr. Buchanan set up his organization of installation and service in the old Copeland-Shaw building, now known as the Daniels building. He subcontracted the sheet metal work. As soon as he opened business, he began selling. RW Reed Department Store was his first commercial job. This unit was removed when the store expanded. However, it is still in use – it cools the main dining room at the Rex Plaza motel.
Mr. Buchanan’s first residential installation, also in 1936, was in the home of Harry Rutherford, editor to the Tupelo Daily Journal, and Mrs. Rutherford. This unit still operates in their home. Starting in the air conditioning business in 1936 was a slow process for the Comfort Engineering Co., and just as it was beginning to take hold, World War II broke out. Since air conditioning equipment was frozen for the most part during the war, little new work was done. But equipment already installed was kept operational.
Future installations were talked of for the day equipment again would be available. The first commercial installations after equipment could be purchased were for Pryor’s Dress Shop, TKE Drug store, Spights’s Department Store, Black and White Store, McGauhy’s Department Store, and Hines Brothers. All ordered equipment to be installed as soon as possible.
Comfort Engineering Co.’s original territory was Northeast Mississippi from Highway 82 north to the Tennessee line and as far west as Starkville. The company is now well known for installations in the area bounded by Starkville, Macon, and Columbus on the South, Oxford on the west, and almost to the Memphis City limits on the north. The organization Mr. Buchanan set up was the first and largest of its type in Northeast Mississippi.
In December of 1952, Mr. Buchanan sold Comfort Engineering Co. to W.W. (Bill) Timbes and B.S. (Smith) McDougal. At the time the firm was moved to 824 North Gloster Street, Tupelo, its present location. Tom Wiley, who had been with Comfort Engineering several years, was taken in as a partner in 1961. Today Comfort Engineering Co. still has the largest installation and service department in North Mississippi. It has added its own sheet metal department in order to have a complete installation under one roof.
Ever since it’s founding, the firm’s record of sales of Carrier equipment has been phenomenal and envied by the entire industry. There have been years when Comfort Engineering has installed as much as 90 percent of the air conditioning equipment in its territory. The company has averaged selling 60 to 65 percent of it through the years. The record of service and taking care of customers started small in 1936, and has continued until today. Comfort Engineering’s fleet of trucks and personnel are known to most everyone in their territory.