When Jeff Schwenneker started his air-conditioning and electrical company out of his home in 2003, he had three employees, one of whom was his son, Jeffry. Twenty years later, the owners of Schwenn Services boast close to 50 employees and a reputation for loyalty and honesty.
Schwenn offers electrical services, thermal imaging, design/build, lighting protection, retrofits, new construction and remodeling, and more. The Schwenneker father-son business recently celebrated two decades of operation providing services to commercial customers.
“We’ve always had an excellent working relationship,” Jeff Schwenneker said of he and his son. “I don’t remember a time when we’ve had an argument. There’s been times when we’ve sat across from each other and times were tough and we said, ‘What are we going to do?’ You don’t always hear about a successful father-son businesses, but this one works.”
Another son, Brent Schwenneker, worked for the company for a time, too.
“The analogy I try to give everyone is that he and I are like chips and salsa,” Jeffry Schwenneker said. “No one goes to the store and buys just salsa. … You can’t have one without the other.
“I try to do what he doesn’t enjoy doing, and he does what I don’t enjoy doing or can’t do,” he said. “I manage day-to-day, hour-to-hour management of the business. I’m the farmer; Dad’s the hunter, the one with all the relationships.”
“A lot of people say, ‘Don’t go in business with your family; there’s a lot of strife,” Jeff Schwenneker said. “We don’t have any of that. He respects where I came from, and I respect where he’s come from — (growing up with) the internet, cell phones, computers.”
Jeff Schwenneker said he was very hands-on in the company’s earlier years, and he worked on project management, estimating, and loading trailers and trucks. In recent years, the company started hiring project managers so he could focus on estimating.
The business has had several addresses through the years, starting in a business park in Ocoee before moving to warehouse space in Winter Garden. Three years ago, the Schwennekers operated near the airport in Orlando. But the dream always was to move the company to downtown Winter Garden.
One day, Jeff Schwenneker drove down a few side streets near Plant Street and found a building that was available on North Woodland Avenue. It was a former house built around 1955 — it still had the original pink and green bathrooms — and it was the perfect new home for Schwenn Services.
The company has had customers who have stayed loyal to the Schwennekers since the beginning. Jeff Schwenneker opened the business after working for a large company, and he knew he needed to start small and slowly grow.
“We were doing $100,000 in service,” Jeffry Schwenneker said. “(But) when you put in a system, you have to have the service. It’s now doing about $3 million per year. (Dad) gets all the credit for that.
“That’s his baby, and he grew it to that,” Jeffry Schwenneker said. “That’s to his credit. He’s hired the right people.”
Jeff Schwenneker instead gives credit to his employees who are efficient and get the jobs done day after day.
“What’s kept them loyal to us is we don’t work from the top down, from the president down, but we start at the maintenance guy and go up from there,” he said. “I think our customers have seen that over the years. We do what we say we’re going to do. Sometimes it costs us money, and sometimes we make money.”
Schwenn has handled some large projects through the years, including the Veterans Administration, Foundation Academy, Holy Land, Disney Springs and the Kennedy Space Center. The company has done a great deal of school renovations as well as work at area hospitals, too.
It did work on one of the city’s fire stations and currently is changing the air-conditioning units on the Garden Theatre. Healthy West Orange is another client.
The Schwenn office has a low-key vibe and makes people feel comfortable when they first enter. On occasion, maintenance employees with the city of Winter Garden stop by for a quick visit with the staff.
“That’s what’s been part of our success — they don’t have to go through the receptionist when they come in the door,” Jeffry Schwenneker said. “They don’t have to deal with his secretary, because he doesn’t have one.”
The business keeps regular office hours, but clients know they can call the Schwennekers directly if they are in need.
“This world’s about people and not what we have and how much we have,” Jeff Schwenneker said.
The Schwennekers have built their business on trustworthiness and giving back to the community. They recently joined the WG100 organization that collects monetary donations from members and distributes them quarterly to needy organizations.
Jeffry Schwenneker said he appreciates all the hard work his father has put in to help make the business a success.
“When I get out of bed each day (and know) that what he started and has continued all these years — (I’m grateful) I can continue that every day,” he said. “Every decision (I make) revolves around that.”
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.