Make us your home page
Instagram

Brooksville company has become a leader in commercial refrigeration

BROOKSVILLE — By any measure, Joseph E. Matthews III has earned the right to the title of "entrepreneur par excellence."

From a 10- by 10-foot room in his Weeki Wachee home just six years ago, Matthews has grown 5-Star Refrigeration & Air Conditioning Inc. into a business powerhouse, now occupying a 24,000-square-foot facility where 84 engineering designers, installers, sellers and service technicians are employed, serving commercial customers from Naples to Gainesville to Orlando.

Refrigeration and heating/ventilation/air-conditioning may seem like a ho-hum business, but corporations such as Publix Supermarkets, Wawa convenience stores and the Darden Group (including Red Lobster and Olive Garden restaurants) count reliable, efficient refrigeration and water filtration critical to their enterprises.

Filling their needs is 5-Star, one of only three or four such providers in the Tampa Bay area, according to Matthews, president and CEO.

"We've gone to being one of the biggest in the state," he said, "and we've hired our first service technician in Georgia. Since 2009, we've grown 500 percent in revenue."

Tampa Bay Business Journal in December named 5-Star "the star of the show" on its 2013 roster of the 50 fastest-growing companies in the Tampa Bay area.

The meat and potatoes of 5-Star includes what the general public generally takes for granted: those large glass-doored refrigerators at the supermarket, the water filtration guts behind the ice machines that fill beverage glasses at restaurants, and mammoth air-conditioning units that provide temperate atmospheres during steamy Florida summers for shoppers and diners.

There was a ribbon cutting on Friday at the company's spacious warehouse in the former Coca-Cola plant on the east side of Brooksville — renovated at a cost of some $150,000. Among other things, the warehouse holds big coils and long lengths of copper tubing, stacks of PVC pipe, electronic control panels and so many parts they're being bar-coded for efficient locating and inventorying. The company's service fleet numbers 69 vehicles.

5-Star is a "unique entity" in that it is a "comprehensive, one-stop solution" for commercial refrigeration and HVAC work, says marketing and sales director Gary Read.

The 5-Star name, Read noted, represents the company's five offerings: equipment sales, installations, preventative maintenance, service and water filtration.

Matthews, 57, has worked 30 years in the refrigeration business, earlier founding Sun Belt Refrigeration in Tampa, then selling that company to national conglomerate Ingersoll Rand before launching the Hernando County business.

The founder's expertise and experience is rare.

"Our greatest obstacle is hiring qualified technicians," Matthews said.

Recently, he incorporated a fledgling nonprofit organization to start a school he calls Stars to teach supermarket technology with a refrigeration specialty. He said he has the equipment and curriculum in hand and is rounding up suppliers, but is in need of funds, hopefully grants, to get under way.

Said 5-Star's operations manager Gwen Lahera: "It's not just for us; it's for the refrigeration business."

Meanwhile, 5-Star provides in-house training to its employees.

And it continues to carry out its mission: "to be the highest-quality full-service equipment company servicing the food industry in the southeastern United States."

"We're just getting into our stride right now," said Matthews.

Beth Gray can be contacted at graybethn@earthlink.net.

. To learn more

5-Star Refrigeration & Air Conditioning

5-Star Refrigeration & Air Conditioning Inc. is at 23091 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville. The company is hiring qualified refrigeration technicians. For information, call (352) 345-4813 or toll-free 1-866-576-0279. Its website isat 5starrefrigeration.com.

Brooksville company has become a leader in commercial refrigeration 04/03/14 [Last modified: Friday, April 4, 2014 2:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. For Gov. Rick Scott, 'fighting' could mean vetoing entire state budget

    State Roundup

    Every day, Gov. Rick Scott is getting a lot of advice.

    The last time a Florida governor vetoed the education portion of the state budget was in 1983. Gov. Bob Graham blasted fellow Democrats for their “willing acceptance of mediocrity.”
  2. Potential new laws further curb Floridians' right to government in the Sunshine

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — From temporarily shielding the identities of murder witnesses to permanently sealing millions of criminal and arrest records, state lawmakers did more this spring than they have in all but one of the past 22 years to chip away at Floridians' constitutional guarantees to access government records and …

    The Legislature passed 17 new exemptions to the Sunshine Law, according to a tally by the First Amendment Foundation.
  3. Data breach exposes 469 Social Security numbers, thousands of concealed weapons holders

    Corporate

    Social Security numbers for up to 469 people and information about thousands of concealed weapons holders were exposed in a data breach at Florida the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The breach, which the agency believes happened about two weeks ago, occurred in an online payments system, spokesperson …

    Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam on Monday that nearly 500 people may have had their Social Security numbers obtained in a data breach in his office.
[Times file photo]

  4. Trigaux: Can Duke Energy Florida's new chief grow a business when customers use less power?

    Energy

    Let's hope Harry Sideris has a bit of Harry Houdini in him.

    Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris laid out his prioriities for the power company ranging from improved customer service to the use of more large-scale solar farms to provide electricity. And he acknowledged a critical challenge: People are using less electricity these days. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  5. Citigroup agrees to pay nearly $100 million fine for Mexican subsidiary

    Banking

    NEW YORK — Citigroup has agreed to pay nearly $100 million to federal authorities to settle claims that a lack of internal controls and negligence in the bank's Mexican subsidiary may have allowed customers to commit money laundering.

    Citigroup has agreed to pay nearly $100 million to federal authorities to settle claims that a lack of internal controls and negligence in the bank's Mexican subsidiary may have allowed customers to commit money laundering. 
[Associated Press file photo]