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When The Family Business Is Keeping Cool, It Pays To Be Warm With People

Frank Mutz, 67, and his son Phil, 36.
Frank Mutz, 67, and his son Phil, 36.

Frank Mutz's family has been keeping people cool for more than half a century.

It began with his grandfather, who started installing and repairing air conditioners in the 1950s. Now, Frank is the elder in the family trade, running the Atlanta business alongside his own children, including his son Phil.

"No one really dreams of air conditioning at night. You know, no one thinks, 'Oh, I cannot wait to work on that air conditioner," Phil tells his father, on a recent visit with StoryCorps. "But I'm the guy that goes in there and crawls through your rat-infested crawl space in the 130-degree attic. I'm sort of like a doctor for machines."

Back in the 1970s, Frank recalls they'd often get calls from churches whose air conditioners went on the fritz. "And one time," Frank says, "I was down there and the preacher was doing a really high-powered prayer. As he concluded with 'Amen,' I hit the switch and cool air started coming down."

He wouldn't be surprised if the church got a little bump to its collections that day.

Of course, not everyone is such a joy to work with. At times like that, Phil just tries to remember: "They just slept in a house when it's 90-something degrees outside. That puts anybody in their worst mood," Phil says, also reminding himself how his father would handle the situation. "The kind of warmth you project, you never get frazzled with anybody."

For his part, his father, Frank, is proud of how Phil has done in the family business — and how Phil has apparently inherited one of the family's best traits.

"You know," Frank tells Phil, "my father always told me that I didn't get the best grades, but I have common sense."

He feels the same way about Phil, too.

"You certainly got decent grades in school and you graduated from college. But also, you have good common sense, which in our business is everything."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Von Diaz.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR Staff