Top from left: Quinn’s Plumbing and Heating Staff – Carly Quinn, Tim Quinn, Candace Quewezance and Marie Lou Cherdarchuk.
by Stephen Dafoe
Half a century ago, Ross Quinn moved from Saskatchewan to Alberta to ply his trade. A few years later, in 1972, he and his wife Eva opened Quinn Plumbing and Heating in Morinville.
Still a family business, the business is run by Tim and Cara Quinn, with daughter Carly, brother-in-law Rob Jones on staff and Mary-Lou Cherdarchukwho has been with the company for more than half of its 50 years in town.
Upon opening, and throughout half of the company’s history, Quinn’s performed new installations and repair work. Today, the company is primarily a home service business offering plumbing, heating, and HVAC repairs and renovations.
“We do everything from drains or faucets or water lines, to furnaces, to water heaters, to air conditioners,” Tim Quinn said, noting that indoor air quality is now a big part of the company. “Indoor air quality is a big part of our game right now. We took care of indoor air quality. We were working with a doctor in town. His patients were very specific about the quality of air, so we looked into that, did our research, and came up with product lines that we felt were beyond what was on the market.
These products, originally intended for medical patients, are now part of Quinn’s offerings to customers replacing their ovens.
“We found that people who maybe didn’t have allergies didn’t think about it, and there are things that people just shouldn’t be breathing in,” Quinn said. “We have contributed to this awareness. COVID definitely helped with that [education]. This peaked in everyone’s awareness.
Founder Ross Quinn moved from Saskatchewan to Alberta to follow a man he had worked with. Quinn’s former employer suggested Quinn come to Alberta for work opportunities.
Although he originally intended to settle in Spruce Grove, Quinn brought his family to Morinville, where he opened Quinn’s Plumbing & Heating Ltd. in 1972.
When Quinn hung his sign, Morinville had a population of 1,251. Four years later, this population had jumped by 64% to reach 2,059 inhabitants. In 1980, the population was 4,207, more than triple when the Quinns started their business.
“They built up a lot of the town,” Tim Quinn said of those years when his father and other local business owners, including Tom Houle, Len Jubenville and Rene Pomerleau, worked on the town’s new development. “This group of entrepreneurs had their fingerprints on a lot of things here.”
The company transformed over the years from major construction projects, including a seniors’ facility in Fort Chipewyan and other major projects in the early 1980s.
When bankruptcy hit in 1986, the company downsized to Ross and Eva Quinn, his son Tim and another technician, but rebounded as the economy improved.
Quinn and his wife Cara took over the business in 1995.
At this time, the company was still heavily involved in commercial construction. Over time, the couple transitioned the business from commercial work to strictly residential service work.
“It was good because it really helped smooth out the peaks and valleys,” Quinn said. “Building is a boom/bust thing.”
The plumbing and heating industry has changed
But a shift in business focus isn’t all that has changed in the past half-century. Technology too.
Tim Quinn said that when he learned the trade he was at the cutting edge of cast iron and copper as mainstays of the industry.
“The plastic was there when I started, but there was still a lot of cast iron used,” he said, adding that copper remained popular for many years. “Guys might now see cast iron at school [where they are shown] how to pour a lead joint.
Beyond piping materials, the biggest change is in the efficiency requirements of the products Quinn and others in the industry sell.
“The government has imposed minimum efficiency levels,” he said. “It used to be that a medium efficiency furnace, something around 80%, was a major upgrade from what you had before. Now we can’t even sell mid-efficiency furnaces. Our minimum standard is now 92.5% efficiency. This is where we start.
Once an add-on, air conditioning has become increasingly comparable to a new furnace in terms of cost, as regulated efficiencies have driven the price up.
“It seems like on the air conditioning side, a lot more people see it as a necessity rather than a benefit,” Quinn said.
With the increase in efficiency and the technology to make this possible, there is a lot more information to share with customers today.
“We do a lot more education now than I thought before,” he said. “With the Internet, people have a lot more information. It forces you to be more educated yourself. You need to know what you are selling.
Celebrate a Milestone
Reflecting on the company’s 50th anniversary and the business started by his father, Ross, who died in 2021 at the age of 85, Tim Quinn said it was a shame his father was not there to celebrate this stage.
“He would be proud of it. He started it and he was still there pretty much every day,” Quinn said. “I’m sure he was proud and he was proud. You could see it. It was his business, and he was proud of what they had built and how much of a part of the community it was.
This community involvement is something Quinn said he and Cara have tried to continue over the years.
“They were very involved in the community and we tried to stay involved by helping out wherever we could,” Quinn said.
Editor’s note: Below is a video of Ross Quinn filmed in 2019.