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Empire Comfort Systems Celebrates 85 Years

Monday, August 28, 2017

By Bill Sendelback

It’s not that unusual for a company to still be in business after 85 years. What is highly unusual is for a company to have been continuously family-owned and family-managed for all of those years. Empire Comfort Systems was 85 years old as of Aug. 25, 2017, and the Bauer family is now in its fourth generation of ownership and management. The company celebrated its birthday on Saturday, August 26 with what president Nick Bauer calls a “family party” for its employees and their families.

The company was created in 1911 by Henry Bauer as a small sheet-metal shop in Belleville, Illinois; it was formally incorporated on Aug. 25, 1932, as Empire Stove Company. Today, the company is a leading manufacturer of gas space heaters and gas hearth products.

In addition to celebrating 85 years as a family-owned company, Nick Bauer’s mother and father, Brian and Pamela Bauer, in 1937 bought out 10 other Bauer family members and now are celebrating the 30th anniversary of that buyout. The company is presently owned by the parents, Brian and Pamela Bauer, along with Nick Bauer, and his sister Jane. Nick and Jane represent the fourth generation of company ownership. Nick, as president, is the only Bauer in company management.

“My parents were in their 30s, so they were able to take the risk and the challenges themselves,” he says, “and we are going to see a fifth generation in the future.”

Empire Comfort Systems since 1937 has been headquartered in Belleville, Illinois, in eight buildings totaling 550,000 sq. ft. The company’s warehouse building was built in 1863 during the Civil War.

Nick Bauer is most proud of the 4,016 total years of service represented by Empire’s employees, with department employees’ services ranging from 39 years in the company’s finance department to 2,474 years of employee service in Empire’s production department.

Hundreds of employees and their family members attended the August 26 celebration. Activities included games, raffles, live music, lunch and even the appearance of Fred Bird, the mascot of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. Employees were able to take their family members through the facility to show them where they work and what they do. And family members were shown the chain of manufacturing operations from raw materials at one end of the production line to finished goods coming out the other end.

“This was a celebration focused on our employees because the Bauer family strongly believes that, if it were not for those 4,000-plus years of employee service, there would be no Empire Comfort Systems,” said Nick Bauer. He also points out that 97% of Empire’s sales are to other family businesses, some have been customers for as long as 70 years.

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