When Tom Krygsheld started Illiana Heating and Air Conditioning with his wife Sue out of their Lansing home, they had three younsters running around and not a lot of space.
Krygsheld never imagined at that time how much the business would grow.
Fast-forward 26 years to the recently opened 6,200-square-foot, two-story facility that hugs U.S. 41 north of Cedar Lake.
"We voted to not participate in that recession," Krygsheld said of the decision to make a major investment during a slow-moving economy.
Krygsheld now has 15 employees including son Dan Krygsheld who directs sales and son-in-law Kevin Frump, a mechanical engineer and the general manager.
Bringing them on has fulfilled his personal dream to grow Illiana as a family business strong enough to sustain their families and provide for his and his wife's retirement.
Getting to that point took decisions that strayed from those of similar companies.
"I learned really early in business that many contractors put their eggs in one basket. For many, that was new construction. We didn't do that," Krygsheld said. "Our strong point is retrofit. We do a lot of changeouts," he said.
Illiana employees are trained to understand the tax credits available when changing systems as well as the incentives offered by utility companies.
The company diversified by adding geo-thermal heat pumps, duct cleaning, radiant floor heat and mini-split air conditioning systems.
"When one slows up, another gets stronger," Krygsheld said.
When they bought five acres on U.S. 41, a long and narrow stretch of land with an existing 2,850-square-foot building at its rear, the Krygshelds knew they would eventually build close to the highway.
Krygsheld said he is proud to have longtime employees. Illiana's first, Gary Skoniecki, recently celebrated 25 years with the company. Another has 20 years in, he said.
Krygsheld said, while some employees may not share the same beliefs, they "must know how I go to market. We are Christian people, and we run our business that way," he said.
State and county requirements boosted the cost of the new facility. "The investment was substantially higher than expected," Krygsheld said. Still, he said the new building is his last piece of the puzzle.
"This secures the future," he said.