– By Dan England –

Longevity generally means businesses are doing things the right way, so it is no big surprise that several of our winners have been in business in Northern Colorado for decades—a few are even a century or more old. 

Check out some of our long-standing businesses who placed in this year’s survey. 

The Fort Collins Heating & Air Conditioning team, left to right: Jesse Frank (son), Glenn Frank (CEO/President), Vic Frank (father), Anthony Taylor (stepson/Vice President) and Mitchell Frank (son).

Fort Collins Heating & Air Conditioning, circa 1934

Glenn Frank knew he’d own a business of some kind. But he didn’t think it would be heating and air conditioning. 

“I was actually trying to avoid it,” Frank says and laughs. “I wasn’t sure it was the right path for me.”

Glenn, after all, grew up in the business. His grandfather owned Fort Collins Sheet Metal, a business he started in the 1930s as a precursor to modern heating and air systems. Glenn also worked for his father, Vic, for many years at Vic’s own heating and air conditioning business.

It’s only natural for a young man to have a desire to strike out on his own, and Glenn considered owning a car wash or maybe storage units. He even worked as a firefighter. 

Still, Glenn eventually did start Fort Collins Heating & Air Conditioning in 1996, and it’s worked out well for him. He just won his category in NOCO Style’s Readers’ Choice Best of NOCO survey for the ninth year in a row.

“I really don’t regret getting into this trade,” Glenn says. “It’s been great for me.”

The business is a continuation of the family trade, and Glenn did get his start by purchasing his grandfather’s Fort Collins Sheet Metal company. He still uses the equipment when he needs a special fit for a unit. But Glenn started his business on his own, and things have changed since the early days: Even in arid Colorado, most homes have air conditioning, with occupants who can’t imagine life without it. 

He’s honored that his three sons are all going into the business with him now. Jesse, Mitchell and Anthony Taylor, a stepson, all found it a different way. Jesse and Mitchell naturally drifted into it, but Anthony went a different way at first, just like Glenn, before entering the business. He’s now vice president. 

“It’s really good we have people going into these trades,” Glenn says. “It’s in high demand, and I think our society has kind of a single-path conveyor belt to college. That’s a great path for many folks, but there are a large chunk of people who need to go in another direction.” 

Glenn says hiring people who can continue the standards he set for his customers is critical, which also makes him glad his sons are with him now. 

“That’s the hardest thing over the years, making sure the people you hire are doing things the way you would do it,” he says. “You can’t micromanage, but it has to be close enough.” 

 

Charles and LJ Houska

Houska Automotive, circa 1952

LJ Houska still has customers who talk about his grandfather.

Charles Houska started Houska Automotive 70 years ago. The auto repair business still gets enough love from customers to win second for General Auto Repair and third for Oil Change in the Best of NOCO survey. And part of the reason for that is the shop’s extensive family history.

“When you turn 12, you are going to sweep floors and empty trash,” says LJ, who speaks from experience. “But even at a young age, I liked the shop. When I was really young and my grandfather was still alive, I thought it was cool getting picked up from school in a tow truck.” 

LJ is now the general manager and runs the place, as his father, Dennis, is “pretty much retired,” LJ, 43, says. 

LJ could do oil changes in high school and got a business management degree from CSU while he was eased into operating the repair shop. Now it’s three different buildings that house a variety of repair jobs, from heavy-duty vehicles to the car your mom drives. The original building is on the property, and they still use it today. 

“Even when I was a kid, the business changed a lot,” LJ says. “We are always improving, just little things at a time.” 

 

Connie Hanrahan, Mantooth Company

Mantooth Company, circa 1995 

Connie Hanrahan started her marketing company 28 years ago, and her favorite part about having a successful, long-term business isn’t the paycheck or the prestige. It’s about being picky. 

Hanrahan has clients from Colorado Springs to Cheyenne, but she doesn’t have to say yes to everyone. 

“I don’t work with any client who doesn’t support the community in some way,” Hanrahan says. “Do you volunteer? Are you in the community? Do you encourage your employees to become community minded?

“Picking who you work with is a gift that I don’t take for granted.” 

Hanrahan believes it was her own involvement in the community that led her to start Mantooth. She was the marketing director for Rocky Mountain Business Ventures, a company that owned roughly 35 Subway restaurants, when she sent out a survey to 25 people she trusted in Northern Colorado. Nearly all of them told her to go for it. 

“People got to know me with my involvement,” Hanrahan says. “I would even get calls from other businesses while I was with Rocky Mountain who would ask to pick my brain. I could never stop myself: I would write ideas down and send them to people. I still do that today. So many of them encouraged me to go out on my own, and that’s why the community is so important to me.” 

She believes in working with companies who give back because they are like-minded, she says. 

“At the beginning, you work with many types of companies and individuals and then, over time, you realize that your best work is with those who are similar. They have stories to be told, and we love sharing them within the community.” 

Many of her 35 clients, not surprisingly, have been in business for more than 20 years, and she’s worked with more than half for 15+ years. 

She recently gave up a big piece of her own community involvement when she handed off the Lagoon Summer Concert Series, an event and “gift to the community” she ran for 25 years (and which was once again voted Best Outdoor Concert in the Best of NOCO survey). She gave it to Colorado State University. Her employers typically called the series “Connie’s baby,” and she was sad to let it go, although she says it’s now in good hands and that CSU will do an amazing job with it. 

“I’m about to turn 60,” she says. “I don’t have the energy I used to have.” 

Even so, she can’t leave it completely, just like she will always give her time to other parts of the community. “I’ll still be involved,” she says.