• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Family-owned business rooted in community

SEMONES HEATING & AIR Conditioning began as a family-owned business in the kitchen of Sally and Phillip Semones' Versailles home. The business has grown and now operates in a warehouse-office building at 240 Crossfield Drive. From left are son Chris, with his wife, Lyndsay, Phillip, Sally and their daughter, Ashley. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

When Phillip and Sally Semones started a small heating and air conditioning business in the kitchen of their Versailles home, they were focused on earning some extra income to raise two young children. Phillip, who worked full-time for Woodford and later Scott County schools, did heating and air conditioning jobs on the side - taking care of his customers on weeknights and weekends. He was also a volunteer firefighter and worked as night watchman. It's a work ethic Phillip learned from his dad, Matt, who told him, "Do it right or don't do it at all ... and take pride in what you do." By always being fair to customers and charging reasonable rates, the family-owned business "grew by word of mouth," says Sally, who answered calls and telephoned her husband to let him know when "you've got some work to do tonight." The family business was run out of their kitchen - and two-car garage - until around 2007 or 2008 when they were able to purchase a shop and move to property off Frankfort Street. "It was the first time I actually really had my own kitchen back," says Sally. She retired from a state government job in 2005, but has never gotten a paycheck from Semones Heating & Air. "I have never been on the payroll, but Phillip is still on the payroll," she says. Before taking on the day-to-day responsibilities of running his family's business in 2003, Chris Semones says he spent a little less than three years working for an HVAC company in Lexington to gain experience and knowledge. Phillip wanted his son to learn all aspects of running a business - on service calls and, most importantly, writing detailed job proposals for customers. Working with his dad in the family business was something that Chris had wanted to do since he was 15 or 16 years old. "Some days are better than others," he acknowledges, "...but I wouldn't change anything." Phillip and Sally credit their detail-oriented son for managing the family-owned business to a point where more space was needed for trucks, parts and equipment in order to provide timely service to a growing number of customers. So three years ago, Semones Heating & Air moved to Crossfield Drive. "It keeps us a lot more efficient," says Chris of the new location, where he works with his sister, Ashley Semones, and wife, Lyndsay Semones. They answer service calls and take care of administrative duties - once handled by Sally. "I love my job," says Ashley. "And I don't see myself ever going anywhere else." She would like to pursue her journeyman's license so she can take on more responsibilities in running the family business. With two grown children and a daughter-in-law already in the family business and four young grandchildren - Mattie, Cora Ann, Ayden and Avery - now a part of their growing family, Sally says, "We're working on the next generation." Four-year-old granddaughter Mattie seems to already know what to do when she answers a service call, according to her dad, Chris. "She actually answered one of my phone calls on a weekend one time," before telling him: "Dad, her heater's broke." The longtime customer almost started to explain what her problem was when Chris got on the phone - realizing his young daughter wasn't just playing with his cell phone. "I'm supportive whatever she wants to do," says Lyndsay. "Because one day we're not going to be able to answer the phone so someone's going to have to." Ashley agrees, but says, "I want (my son Avery) to be what he wants to be." And right now, the nearly-six-year-old boy doesn't know what he wants to be when he grows up - even though he does love his "Pap Pap." Both Phillip and Chris still make service calls, sometimes at the request of a customer, who typically lives in Woodford County. "I've worked for people for 30-plus years," says the 60-year-old Phillip, "and now I'm doing their kids' and grandkids' work. Customers I've had for years and years. That's why we do quality work... "If you can't do it right, don't do it." The biggest drawback to being a family that works together is not being able to take a vacation so they can play together. Planning a trip to Disney World as a family a couple of years ago became very stressful. They only spent a couple of days together because someone had to run the family business. "The business is as much a part of our life as our family is," says Chris. He and his family may spend many hours running a business, but they remain very family-oriented. They eat supper every Wednesdaynight - together. "We're together a lot," says Sally, "and we love it." Phillip, who started going on service calls for his dad's customers while still in school, says, "It's all I've ever done." Phillip and his brother, Jeff, were paid like everybody else, "but we worked like everybody else too," says Phillip. The brothers took what they'd learned from their dad, and opened their own businesses - years later. "I'm sure he'd be proud," says Sally. Jeff does local plumbing jobs so "we share a lot of customers too," says Chris. Customers will sometimes phone his office asking for Jeff Semones Plumbing because "a lot of people think it's just one business," says Sally, laughing. Neither Phillip nor Jeff had any interest in taking on their dad's business when he got sick and died of cancer in 1980. Phillip was only 20 years old and earning good money in other work. It was only after he and Sally became parents in to a son in 1981 and a daughter in 1983 that Phillip started doing HVAC work "to make ends meet," says Sally. Looking back on the decades that her family has lived and worked here, she's proud that her family has been able "to give back to a community that's given to us." In recent years, Semones Heating & Air has donated the labor and reduced the cost of materials for the installation of an HVAC system at the recently built Food Pantry for Woodford County, collected donations for the food pantry and donated an HVAC system to a local hero last Christmas.

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