BY JOHN HOLLAND
IC Refrigeration started in Modesto in 1940, taking its clever name from a founder named Imfeld and a partner named Cloutier.
Paul Cloutier moved on to another venture the next year. Bill Imfeld stayed and built a company that at various times has provided cooling for dairy farms, grocery stores and restaurants, along with heating, air conditioning and other services.
IC will celebrate its 75th anniverary with an invitation-only gathering Friday at the site in Ceres where it has operated since 1987. The business employs 46 people, including installers, service technicians and sheet metal fabricators. The owners today are Dick Imfeld, the founder’s son; Rich Imfeld, a grandson; and Kevin Silva.
They do not have an exact date for the founding in 1940, when Modesto had about 17,000 people, the dairy industry was well-established, and air conditioners were starting to offer relief from the summer heat.
The key to reaching 75 years, an uncommon feat in the business world?
“I think we provide value,” Rich Imfeld said during a tour of the business Monday. “We provide ethics. We try to do the right thing, at our expense if necessary.”
IC started out at Sixth and I streets in downtown Modesto. It moved in the 1950s to the first of two locations on South Ninth Street, the former Highway 99. The Ceres location, 11,500 square feet in all, is in an industrial complex on Rockefeller Drive, just north of Whitmore Avenue on the city’s west side.
Bill Imfeld, an immigrant from Switzerland, installed refrigeration for dairy farms early on. He also served grocers, including the long-gone New Deal and Angelo’s stores. Both of these lines of business faded away, but IC continued on with air conditioning and heating for homes and businesses. It later added fire protection systems and specialty sheet metal.
Restaurants are a big part of the business these days, including accounts with McDonald’s and Panda Express. IC keeps the food cold and provides extinguishers, exhaust hoods and other safeguards against things getting too hot.
It works with steel, copper and other metals to make products ranging from gutters to countertops to fireplaces.
“I really do think the diversity of our business is what keeps us busy,” said Silva, who oversees specialty metals and fire protection.
The company has installed systems that are increasingly energy-efficient. Silva noted, for example, an exhaust fan for McDonald’s that switches on only if the fryer beneath it is on, too.
“Kitchens are so integrated technologically that everything talks to each other,” he said.
Dick Imfeld was born the same year that his father started the company. He joined it in 1964 and took over upon the founder’s death in 1985. Rich Imfeld joined in 1992 and Silva in 1997.
“The business has been good to us,” Dick Imfeld said. “I liken it to a deep-rooted tree. The wind blows, but it won’t blow it over.”
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2385.