National Small Business Week
Pierson & Pierson Plumbing & Heating in Fairfield, Iowa
Century businesses are not that common. Even less so are century businesses with less than 10 employees. Fairfield is home to Pierson & Pierson Plumbing & Heating, founded one hundred and one years ago in a building near the corner of Broadway and Court, where Iowa State Bank now stands.
Henry and Frank Pierson, father and son respectively, founded the plumbing business in 1919. When they first opened they sold appliances as well as providing plumbing and heating maintenance and repair. Both Piersons were involved community members and their reputation grew by providing good service and being well-known, well respected members of the community. Harold Lamb entered the business in 1951 and later married Charlotte Pierson, daughter of Frank Pierson. They raised a family of three kids, and Harold continued at the business until he passed away in 1993 leaving Steve as the last of the Pierson lineage in charge.
The Lambs had three kids and the youngest, Steve would often work in the store during the summers of his school age years. Steve says that as a youngster he remembers, with little fondness, using the bathroom in that first storefront. The bathroom was in the poorly lit basement, in the back, across the dirt floor, with only a barrier wall for privacy. Not a place to linger.
During the summers of his high school years Steve would work in the shop during the day and play softball in the evenings and weekends. One of those summers he re-met Angie Brown, a well-known standout high school athlete who also grew up in Fairfield. Things went well but they both went away to college; Steve at the University of Iowa and Angie at Northeast Missouri State.
During that time, they started dating, and after graduation Angie returned to Fairfield as a teacher in the public schools and Steve moved to Des Moines and started work in his chosen profession. After Angie returned to Fairfield as a teacher in the public schools, Steve left Des Moines and returned to Fairfield, joining Pierson and Pierson full time in 1984 and marrying Angie that same year. Also in 1984, Iowa State Bank approached the Pierson family about purchasing the building, and the Piersons were happy to move to their present location at 601 West Burlington Avenue, the site of a former gas station; and a nicer bathroom.
Times changed and in the 1990s Pierson & Pierson dropped the retail side of the business as big box stores started competing in the appliances market. Steve continued the family heritage of providing good service and being well-known in the community. Attend any community event that involves fun and you can tell if Steve is there because he laughs loud and often. Performers love this guy! So do his customers. Steve treats customers like family, often spending extra time checking in on folks, especially the elderly, and sticking around after a repair (free of charge), to learn how people are doing; something his father taught him. He and his staff have often been known to save someone’s family get together by working late into an evening and showing up the next morning to make sure the repairs were holding… and occasionally to pick up tools they left behind.
For a company that rarely advertises, Steve has ample customers to keep the business going; yet another sign of quality customer service. Ask Steve about the industry and he’ll mention a few things that have changed over the years. The introduction of plastic pipes made the business less expensive for customers and easier for staff to install. High efficiency furnaces and water saving appliances all meant better, cheaper services to keep families and businesses comfortable for less money.
Steve will tell you that another part of the business is keeping good people. Currently Pierson’s staff consists of Marge Heckenburg, part-time bookkeeper since 1985, Mike Crew for many years and a relatively recent addition, Jeff Koontz. Steve also wanted to thank a couple of other folks he’s had over the years. Mark Bell was at Piersons from 1999-2004, and Dave Goehring, another well-known community-minded fellow, for over twelve years. Even the current Chamber CEO did a brief stint with Steve and the guys back in the day. Steve is good at helping folks out too.
The U.S. Small Business Administration has postponed National Small Business Week; new dates will be announced soon. The Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce would still like to highlight five Fairfield Area businesses this week in celebration of Small Business Week.