Verne & Ellsworth Hann draw on four generations of experience
A fixture on Lee Road for 43 years, Verne & Ellsworth Hann Inc. has roots in the Heights community going back to 1907. Now Bill Hann and his brother, Chris, carry on the four-generation family tradition of heating and cooling service, begun over 100 years ago by their great grandfather, William Hann.
An inventor and pioneer in the heating industry, Hann codeveloped the first low-pressure steamheat system, working with architects, Harlan Shimmin and Meade & Hamilton, to install it in many of the large homes in Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights.
“Prior to the development of the new system, heat was either on or off. My great grandfather’s invention kept noise to a minimum, and, for the first time, allowed radiator heat levels to be adjusted,” Chris Hann explains.
Today, 80 percent of Verne & Ellsworth Hann’s business remains in Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights, and 95 percent of it is residential.
“One of the advantages to staying in Cleveland Heights is to be near our customers. We are friends with all the business owners along this stretch. It’s unique to have all these family-owned businesses, and we feel we know our customers a lot better than our competitors,” Hann says.
The company is named for Ellsworth Hann, Chris and Bill’s grandfather, and his brother, Verne. Like the three generations that preceded them, Chris and his brother are hands-on business owners. Bill, the company president, still works in the field during their busy fall/winter season, and both brothers began working summers for their father, William, after they finished 6th grade.
“I remember holding my lunch, waiting in the driveway for a crew to pick me up. I got my first pair of work shoes. My dad said I had to keep them polished, and I did,” Chris, the company vice president, recalls. “Working with the guys in the field gives you credibility. The best part of the job is the relationships we form with our employees. You really build a camaraderie working side by side with them.”
Chris Hann believes that their longevity and location give them an advantage in servicing their customers, many of whom live within five miles of their Lee Road office. Many of their employees—the longest serving of whom has been with them 43 years—learned from Chris and Bill’s father and grandfather.
“Our niche is quality and detail. We like things done a certain way—the right way,” Hann says.
The company has many of the original blueprints showing the early heating systems installed in Heights homes, and Hann points out that many family secrets on how the old systems work have been passed down through the four generations.
The company provides plumbing service as well as heating and cooling systems, but Hann says that boilers are their “bread and butter.” He recommends that anyone with a boiler get a annual tune up, explaining, “Unlike a bad part in a warm (forced) air furnace—which just means you won’t have heat until it is repaired or replaced—one bad part can completely burn up a boiler.”
Like Bill, Chris is the father of elementary school-age children. Would he want his kids to go into the business? After a moment’s consideration, Chris affirms, “Yes, if they want to. It takes a certain type of mechanical ability and approach to things. Fewer and fewer people know how to work with their hands.
“As kids, Bill and I both tinkered with things. I always knew I would do this. I tell people all the time, Bill and I are in it for the long haul.”
A former marketing professional, Kim Sergio Inglis recently relocated to Cleveland Heights from Brooklyn, NY.