Mark Johnson is about to reach 20 years of business with his company, Superior Heating, Air Conditioning & Electric, and he credits his late father, Bob Johnson, for instilling his strong work ethic and for opening a door into this industry.
“I learned how to manage time from my dad,” Mark says. “I also learned to work with my hands, being skilled with my hands, from my dad.”
Mark worked with his father in the housing business, with his father’s company known as Bob Johnson Construction, from his early teenage years. At a time when housing interest rates were reaching 20 percent, in the early 1980s, Bob retired from construction but Mark, at only age 19, finished his father’s projects that were still in progress.
The former Blaine Heating, which was acquired by CenterPoint Energy, completed most of the heating and electrical work in Bob Johnson’s homes. After satisfying all contracts for his father’s company, Mark applied for work with Blaine Heating and stayed with that company 13 years. Before he ever started his own business full-time, Mark earned journeyman and master electrical licenses, plus master gas and master warm air licenses.
Mark worked for the University of Minnesota one year before starting Superior Heating, tending to refrigeration needs and some electrical maintenance in five different hospital buildings. He planted roots for starting his own business almost immediately after his employment began at the university. He would work day shifts on campus before providing estimates for his own customers at night, or he would work night shifts on campus after working heating and cooling service calls in the day.
Once shifting all of his professional focus to Superior Heating, Mark ran the business from the start in a one-car home garage in Coon Rapids. With expansion of the business, he rented a two-car garage on Coon Rapids Boulevard, about six blocks from home.
From there, he rented one-half of a pole barn (with a dirt floor) in Oak Grove. In 1997, Mark brought the business to Anoka, buying a former gymnastics center on Second Avenue. At the end of 2003, he says, the city of Anoka bought his Second Avenue property to make way for a condominium project, and offered Mark an opportunity to buy a corner lot in the Anoka Enterprise Park, for a price of $1 as long as he agreed to develop the lot to its maximum capacity. Mark took that offer and developed six business sites on the property, leasing out five of them while running Superior Heating from corner offices facing Thurston Avenue and Lund Boulevard.
Now working with a staff of 12, Mark says he has been fortunate to have different employees join the Superior team at perfect times.
Mark’s first employee in the one-car garage was his brother, Craig, who was six years younger. Sadly, Mark and his family have mourned the loss of Craig from their lives and business as they also mourned losing Bob.
“Craig was a very hard-working person, and a very good laborer,” Mark says. “He was what I needed in some very stressful years. The first five years (for Superior Heating) were very difficult for a guy (Mark) who wasn’t a businessman but learning.”
Mark considers all of his employees and customers to be family. “We’re there to work for our customers, whatever their needs are, which generates lots of referrals,” Mark says. “Having our customers involved with us as a team, I think they feel that (sense of family).”
Superior provides installation and service for electrical wiring, HVAC units and cooling units for welding and other industrial machines.
New to the scope of the company’s offerings, Superior is working with residential backup generators and with home automation, through which a client could monitor heating, cooling, lighting and security of a home all from one control panel. “When new construction comes back, I think that’s going to be very popular,” Mark says.
The company installs Honeywell thermostats, whose technology allows a user to control a home’s temperature by phone or email, and Superior is also installing more wiring for home entertainment systems.
“We make it so they can sit back and have a theater-like experience when they’re watching a movie,” Mark says. “It’s fun wiring to do because it creates such fun results. It’s fun for us and for the customer.”
Mark notes that overall, consumers are acting more frugally when it comes to equipping their homes or business properties. “The trend has been for people to repair rather than replace items, and we’re the type of company that would never push a client into replacing something that could be repaired for many more years,” he says.
He adds that builds a level of trust for when his employees need to recommend product replacement.
“We pride ourselves on meeting our customers’ needs to their satisfaction,” Mark says. “If we’re not meeting our customers’ needs, we’re not going to be in business. I really feel the economy is forcing businesses to do business the way it used to be done, and that was with honesty and integrity.”
Superior Heating’s office hours, at 3731 Thurston Ave. (Suite 108) in Anoka, are 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. The company offers emergency service 24/7. For more information, call 763-422-1721 or visit www.suphvac.com.