Times change, work doesn’t for Steamboat’s J.D.W.
Dewey, Janet Williams celebrate four decades with HVAC, cooling business
October 20, 2009
If you go
What: 40-year anniversary party with Dewey Williams and the staff of J.D.W.
When: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday food available until it runs out
Where: J.D.W. shop at 693 Evans St., off 13th Street
Contact: Call J.D.W. at 970-879-0642 for details or inquiries.
Steamboat Springs — Dewey Williams hasn’t run out of work in 40 years.
Williams and his wife, Janet Williams, are celebrating four decades in business with J.D.W., a Steamboat Springs company that does a little bit of everything – heating and ventilation, refrigeration, air conditioning, sheet metal needs and more.
“Whatever you want built, we’ll build,” Dewey, 68, said Monday in the company’s shop on Evans Street, off 13th Street not far from the Steamboat Springs Transit building.
Dewey’s adaptability and work ethic are apparent all around the shop. Racks of colored sheet metal cover one wall near a machine that can custom cut metal signs; garage shelves and a mini-refrigerator sit near the entrance, bearing price tags; the mezzanine is piled high with spare parts and tools; every worker in the building is wearing boots that have suffered a thousand scuffs; and hoisted high over the floor is a cherry-red 1958 Ford Fairlane, a personal restoration project that occupies Dewey’s spare time – when he has any.
It’s clear that Dewey has a passion for things built to last.
Dewey and Janet married 50 years ago while members of the Golden High School Class of ’59. They came to Steamboat Springs in 1969 and took over Jay’s Sheet Metal in October of that year. In those days, Dewey said, there wasn’t a single streetlight in town, and pretty much everything ran on coal.
“I used to think he climbed inside of a coal boiler to clean it, because he came back so black,” the Williams’ daughter, Brenda Northrop, said Monday in the J.D.W. office. Northrop “grew up with the company,” she said, and as its controller, she oversees daily logistics today.
Throughout the years, Dewey said, J.D.W. has installed HVAC and refrigeration systems for facilities across Northwest Colorado, including the Routt County Jail, Vectra Bank, gondola buildings at Steamboat Ski Area, the Moffat County public safety building and many more. Some facilities, such as Meeker’s wastewater treatment plant, Dewey said he has worked on twice – 25 years apart, after the original machinery needed an upgrade.
The slowest time was a period in the ’80s, he said, when “things kind of folded up in Steamboat.” That drove him to find work in Utah and Wyoming until business picked up again locally.
“Things were tight, (but) we never had a point where we had to shut the doors,” Dewey said. “I don’t think I’ve ever run out of work.”
J.D.W. moved into the 8,800-square-foot shop in 1990, marking a significant upgrade from the company’s beginnings in a garage on Seventh Street.
When asked whether it’s harder to keep a business for 40 years or a marriage for 50, Dewey just grinned. Then Janet chimed in.
“As long as I don’t have to work to count inventory, we get along fine,” Janet said. “That’s our only hang-up, is inventory : and it affects professional and personal (lives). So I don’t do it anymore.”
Longtime employee Darren Ebaugh, J.D.W.‘s foreman, said Dewey and Janet are easygoing bosses.
“They’re really great people : and it’s really enjoyable to be able to work for them,” Ebaugh said. He began working for J.D.W. in 1995 as a junior in high school.
Ebaugh said Dewey and Janet got him a scholarship to attend the Denver Institute of Technology, where he completed a diploma program in HVAC service. He returned to J.D.W. and has worked for the company since.
“We learn stuff every day, in every situation,” Ebaugh said. “Dewey has been a great source to rely on for different installations and that kind of thing. : Hopefully we can work for them for several more years.”
On Friday, the J.D.W. staff will celebrate the company’s longevity with a public lunch and party from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the store. All are welcome to eat, until the food runs out. Janet said radio advertisements for the party are the first ads that J.D.W. – which stands for James Dewey Williams – has ever run.
Dewey said if he had “to do it all over again,” he’d work in the same trade. He had a simple piece of advice for anyone 40 years younger, looking to start an HVAC business.
“You better be prepared to put the hours in,” he said.
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