Arctic Food Equipment had humble beginnings 25 years ago, starting as a home-based business in a backyard shed of owner Mark McCartney.
Now, the company’s digs are quite a bit bigger – a recently expanded 21,000-square-foot facility at 1501 S. Enterprise Ave. has been its home since 2003.
Mark leads a staff of 28 employees providing sales and service to commercial restaurant equipment, HVAC, exhaust hoods and walk-in refrigeration units. When he moved his family to Springfield from Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1994 to start his company, then called Arctic Refrigeration, Mark was the lone employee and technician. Today, the count has grown to 17 technicians – a number he says could be 20-25, if he didn’t struggle to find good, experienced techs.
“You either start turning good business down or you grow and hire technicians,” he says of his decision to expand his service staff in the early years.
The company’s showroom is a veritable shopping mecca for restaurant and food service operations needing to stock their kitchens or replace equipment. Aisles are filled with shelves packed with supplies, including full sets of knives, panini presses, rice cookers, fryers and even clothing for kitchen staff.
“If you can think of it, we probably have it,” says Manager Nathan McCartney, one of Mark’s sons.
Sales didn’t start as a component of the business until 2000, Mark says, as the previous focus was on service. That was the aspect he knew best, having worked 14 years in Tulsa for Crowl Mechanical Inc. Mark says he wasn’t hurting for service work – counting early customers as McDonald’s and Git-N-Go, which later became Kum & Go.
Still, adding sales was worth pursuing, he says, and moved the business in 2000 to a 6,000-square-foot property on West Sunset Street to accommodate offices and a showroom. A change to its current name came that same year.
By 2003, the need for more space necessitated the move to its current home on Enterprise Avenue in what was then 18,000 square feet previously occupied by a refrigeration and heating and air supply company. Mark says he expanded the building by 3,000 square feet during a $400,000 expansion project in 2017.
“We needed a better storefront,” he says. “It was just a total upgrade.”
The percentage disparity between service and sales was vast in 2000, but not anymore, Mark says.
“They’re getting a lot closer to the same. When I started, it was probably 90 percent service, 10 percent sales,” he says, adding service now accounts for 60 percent of business. “It just continues to grow to sales.”
Declining to disclose annual revenue, Mark says he expects sales will eventually surpass the service aspect.
“Springfield is a restaurant town,” he says.
There are around 660 restaurants licensed in the city, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
Arctic Food Equipment has roughly 700 reoccurring service customers and 400 sales clients annually over the past two years, with some a combination of both, Nathan says.
Service is provided 24/7 within a three-hour radius of Springfield, he says, adding the vast majority fall within a 90-minute range.
Marty Hogan, general manager at Golden Corral, 2020 E. Primrose St., has reached out for service help from Arctic Food Equipment for about 20 years.
Recently, the company played a big role in Golden Corral’s extensive remodeling job that required removing all kitchen equipment, followed by a reinstall and testing of every piece. Hogan says the restaurant closed down Jan. 2-Feb. 16 to complete the work, for which Hogan declined to disclose the cost.
“They were there every day for the last two weeks before we reopened,” he says of the Arctic crews that put the kitchen back together.
Hogan says he calls Arctic exclusively to take care of the 30-plus pieces of kitchen equipment.
“They maintain and repair all of my equipment,” he says, estimating the restaurant generally spends between $3,000 and $8,000 monthly in kitchen equipment repairs. “For me, they’re a one-stop shop.”
Being available daily for service calls is something Artic Food Equipment takes pride in, Nathan says, recalling early days of the business when he and his brother Evan would help out at the shop during their junior high and high school days. Both eventually went into the Air Force, where Evan remains today.
After Nathan’s military stint 2005-16, he started a moving business in Oxford, Mississippi, but the family drew him back to Springfield last year. He began full-time work with the company last summer and is being groomed to take over the family business within the next five years, when Mark says he plans to retire.
“It’s been a good move, and I’ve enjoyed coming home,” Nathan says. “As long as I can remember, Arctic’s been a part of my life, too.”
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