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Pelican Aire Commercial Services, Inc., a Clearwater, FL commercial HVAC company, celebrated their 30th Anniversary with an employee party on the evening of November 6, 2021. Held at The Collection On Palmetto Foundation automotive history and technology museum in Clearwater, more than 60 employees, families and guests attended the event. The museum’s collection of over 2 dozen automobiles, ranging from the first modern car, the 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen, a Stanley Steamer, and early electric powered vehicles to a modern day Lamborghini, provided a beautiful backdrop for the celebration. Along with the peek into the past, guests enjoyed sharing stories, laughter, refreshments and a terrific dinner.

Pat (2nd from l.) and Frank (4th from l.) DiBenedetto are presented with the Pelican Aire Ultimate Long Hauler Award by JoAnne and Rick Houghton and their daughters, Andrea Houghton and Renee Pagan
Pat (2nd from l.) and Frank (4th from l.) DiBenedetto are presented with the Pelican Aire Ultimate Long Hauler Award by JoAnne and Rick Houghton and their daughters, Andrea Houghton and Renee Pagan

Rick and JoAnne Houghton and cousins Frank and Pat DiBenedetto invested $15,000 in 1991 to found Pelican Aire Inc. “I obtained my Class-A contractor’s license the previous year purely as a sense of completion of my training and not looking to own a business,” Rick stated. “After several conversations and prodding by our cousin Frank, it seemed like the next logical step and we opened our office in Clearwater, off 34th Street and 126th Avenue. I gave myself three months to make the business succeed and, with a lot of hard work and a lot of support from JoAnne, Frank and Pat, each month was better than the last and the rest is history.”

Pelican Aire moved to a building occupying 10,000 square feet of space on Automobile Boulevard in Clearwater in 1993. By 2018, they purchased the building and began looking for more space. They bought their present location on 54th Street in Clearwater in 2018, increasing their parking and nearly doubling their space to 19,000 square feet.

What began as a one-man operation with a used 1988 Chevy van aided by JoAnne and Pat doing the accounting after-hours has evolved into a solid business with 35 employees, 8 installation vehicles, 8 service vehicles and several shop and management trucks. The company is 100% commercial and focuses heavily on the food service industry. They install walk-in coolers and freezers for the likes of Disney World, Epcot, Universal Studios and Pepsi Cola and install commercial refrigeration all over the state.

Rick attributes the company’s success to hard work, perseverance, ethical business practices, respect for their employees and fiscal responsibility. “A sign reading ‘Quality is Everything’ has always hung outside our buildings and the men and women in our company live by that credo. We expect our employees to follow safe service and installation practices and show courtesy to all our customers, making every effort to provide quality and value with every service call and project we complete. We have employees ranging in service from 29 years down to our most recent hire of two months. JoAnne and I are fortunate to have our daughters joining us here at Pelican, with Andrea working dispatch in our service department and Renee in our financial department. Renee is also secondary qualifier for our company, having obtained her Class-A Air Conditioning Contractor’s license a few years ago.”

Strong support for the Tampa Bay HVAC/R trade association, the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (RACCA) is a commitment Pelican Aire has made since the early days. “RACCA’s Executive Director at the time, Keane Bismark, stopped in during our first year of business and said I needed to join the association,” Rick recalled. “I asked ‘why?’ and he said ‘because’ and I joined. RACCA is much more than a social club, having served as a liaison between contractors and regulatory bodies, representing us in Tallahassee, being a resource for questions about best practices and codes and a platform for sharing experiences and knowledge between contractors. Supporting RACCA is my way of giving back to the industry that has provided for my family, our employees and their families for 30 years.”

Rick served on RACCA’s board of directors for many years, including three terms as president and Pelican Aire has been supportive in sponsoring activities and events as well. He taught in RACCA’s apprenticeship program for 18 years, and strongly encourages all employees to enroll in the program. As a result, Pelican Aire has had numerous graduates of the program over the years, including Renee. Renee is continuing the commitment to RACCA, having recently served as president and currently as a member of the board of directors.
A highlight of the 30th anniversary celebration was recognition of individuals that have contributed to Pelican Aire’s success, which began with Rick presenting the “Long Hauler” awards.
“One of the most important awards, the Ultimate Long Hauler, goes to a couple who are very dear to JoAnne, me and our family and who were with us 30 years ago when we started, Pat and Frank DiBenedetto,” Rick announced. Four other Long Haulers were recognized, Michael Bollenback, Pelican Aire’s long-time accountant, Jerry Barnum of Victor Distributing, who was the first supplier to open a Pelican Aire account, Keane Bismark, past Executive Director of RACCA and John Jones, of John C. Jones and Associates.
Andrea and Renee closed out the presentations, recognizing employees for their various lengths of service.

“We are glad you have joined us to share this evening and are truly blessed to have incredible men and women who have contributed to Pelican Aire’s success.” Rick concluded. “We are very proud of all our employees and their contributions to our company. Thank you to all of you.”

For more information on Pelican Aire Commercial Services, Inc., visit www.pelicanac.com. The team can be reached by calling 727-573-5733.

For more information on The Collection On Palmetto Foundation automotive history and technology museum, visit https://collectiononpalmetto.com.
See photos from the celebration on page 8. Visit hvacinsider.smugmug.com, Event Archives, 2021 11 for more coverage.

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