Above from left: Quinn’s Plumbing & Heating staff – Carly Quinn, Tim Quinn, Candace Quewezance, and Mary-Lou Cherdarchuk.
by Stephen Dafoe
A half-century ago, Ross Quinn moved from Saskatchewan to Alberta to work his trade. A few years later, in 1972, he and his wife Eva opened Quinn’s Plumbing and Heating in Morinville.
Still a family business, the company is run by Tim and Cara Quinn, with daughter Carly, brother-in-law Rob Jones on staff, and Mary-Lou Cherdarchuk, who has been with the company for more than half its 50 years in town.
When it opened, and throughout half the company’s history, Quinn’s did new installations and repair work. Today, the company is primarily a home service company offering repairs and retrofits in plumbing, heating and HVAC.
“We do anything to do with drains or taps or water lines, furnaces, water heaters, air conditioners,” said Tim Quinn, noting that indoor air quality is now a large part of the business. “Indoor air quality is a big part of our game right now. We’ve been involved with indoor air quality. We were doing some work with a doctor in the city. His patients were very specific on air quality, so we got into that, did our research, and came up with product lines we felt were above and beyond what was on the market.”
Those products, originally curated for medical patients, are now part of Quinn’s offerings to clients replacing their furnaces.
“We found that people who maybe didn’t have allergies, didn’t think about it, and there’s stuff that people just shouldn’t be breathing,” Quinn said. “We’ve been helping with that awareness. COVID certainly helped with that [education]. It got everyone’s awareness peaked.”
The Man From Saskatchewan
Founder Ross Quinn moved from Saskatchewan to Alberta to follow a man he had worked with. Quinn’s former employer suggested Quinn come out to Alberta for work opportunities.
Although initially intending to settle in Spruce Grove, Quinn brought his family to Morinville, where he opened Quinn’s Plumbing & Heating Ltd. in 1972.
When Quinn hung his sign, Morinville had a population of 1,251. Four years later, that population had boomed by 64 per cent to 2,059. By 1980, the population was 4,207, more than triple when the Quinns started their business.
“They built a lot of the town up,” Tim Quinn said of those years when his father and other local tradesmen, including Tom Houle, Len Jubenville, and Rene Pomerleau, were working on the new development in town. “That group of contractors had their fingerprints on a lot of stuff around here.”
The company has morphed over the years from big construction projects, including a seniors facility in Fort Chipewyan and other significant projects in the early 1980s
When the bust hit in 1986, the company downsized to just Ross and Eva Quinn, son Tim and one other technician but built back up again as the economy improved.
Quinn and his wife Cara took over the business in 1995.
At that time, the company was still heavily involved in commercial construction. Over time, the couple moved the business from commercial to strictly residential service work.
“It has been good because it’s really helped to flatten out the peaks and valleys,” Quinn said. “Construction is a boom/bust thing.”
Plumbing & Heating Industry Has Changed
But a change in business focus is not all that has changed over the last half-century. Technology has as well.
Tim Quinn said when he learned the trade, he was right on the tail end of cast iron and copper as the mainstays of the industry.
“Plastic was here when I started, but there was still a lot of cast iron used,” he said, adding copper remained popular for many years. “Guys now might see cast iron in school [where they are shown] how to pour a lead joint.
Beyond piping materials, the most significant change is the efficiency requirements of the products Quinn’s and others in the industry sell.
“The government has been driving minimum efficiency levels,” he said. “It used to be that a mid-efficiency furnace, something around 80 per cent, was a major upgrade from what you had before. Now, we can’t even sell mid-efficient furnaces. Our minimum standard now is 92.5 per cent efficiency. That’s where we start.”
Once an add-on, air conditioning has become increasingly on par with a new furnace in terms of cost because regulated efficiencies have driven the price up.
“It seems on the air conditioning side that a lot more people are looking at that as a necessity moreso than a perk,” Quinn said.
With the increase in efficiency and the technology to make that possible, there is far more information to share with customers today.
“We do much more educating now than I think we used to,” he said. “With the Internet, people are armed with a lot more information. It forces you to be more educated yourself. You’ve got to know what you are selling.”
Celebrating A Milestone
Reflecting on the company’s 50th anniversary and the company started by his father, Ross, who passed away in 2021 at the age of 85, Tim Quinn said it is a shame his father is not here to celebrate the milestone.
“He’d be proud of it. He started it, and he was still here pretty much every day,” Quinn said. “I’m sure he be proud and was proud. You could see it. This was his company, and he was proud of what they built and how much it was a part of the community.”
That community involvement is something Quinn said he and Cara have tried to keep going over the years.
“They were very involved in the community, and we have tried to stay involved with helping out wherever we can,” Quinn said.
Publisher’s note: Below is a video of Ross Quinn filmed in 2019.