The customers appreciate the fact that they are always dealing with me, the owner. When customers have a question, they never have to go to someone else to get an answer.
I’ve been full-time in the heating and air business for myself since 2012, but have spent 30 years in the industry and know the technology inside and out. There is almost nothing that I haven’t seen and no product or technology that I haven’t worked on at one point or another. I’m able to do anything, from the smallest service repair job to a full design-build. I do both home installations and commercial projects.
I enjoy going to work every day. I don’t get many days off, but I never feel the need to take a break. Not only am I nearly always available for emergencies, I don’t charge extra after hours or on weekends. There’s no possibility of burnout; I enjoy the satisfaction that my customers get from my work. The fact is, it is easy to do things right when you are doing what you love.
AT HOME WITH HEATING AND AIR
I’ve always worked hard and was working full-time while I was still in high school. I had only two classes the final semester of my senior year, so I got a job working at the Kragen Auto Parts warehouse in San Jose. I worked the midnight until 8:00 a.m. “graveyard” shift. After punching out, I would sleep a couple hours, attend classes for a couple hours, come back home and get a couple more hours sleep before heading back to work at midnight. Kragen’s was a union shop, so I joined the Teamsters Union and immediately began earning more money than my teachers were making.
I did some construction and remodeling work on Kragen stores throughout Northern California. I worked at that job for three years until the regional stores had all gone through the remodeling process. As I was approaching the end of the project, the mechanical contractor who was on the job offered me a position working in his Concord-based heating and air business. My original union job was still waiting for me at Kragen and by then I was at the top of the union pay scale, but the guy agreed to match the salary.
Right from the first day on the job, I enjoyed the heating and air industry. For one thing, each job was unique. I had spent six years pulling orders on the same aisle in that warehouse, so now I appreciated the fact that every day I ended up doing something different than I had ever done before. I didn’t work for that company very long because the guy had a difficult time getting my paycheck to me in a timely manner, but I subsequently got a great job doing heating and air installation projects for a large general contractor in San Jose. I learned a lot in a short period of time and looked forward to going to work every day.
Some of the jobs were at giant facilities like NASA and Lockheed. Each day confronted me with unique challenges that I had never encountered before. They were so big and the challenges were so complicated that it was satisfying to make the pieces of the installation actually come together and do the job they were designed for. I spent a year-and-a-half on a single massive installation at Pittsburg’s USS-POSCO Industries steel mill.
I had become a licensed contractor myself in 1997 and did moonlighting contract projects on weekends and after hours. I bounced around in a few companies for a decade or so, and then spent 14 years working with a San Ramon heating and air manufacturing sales and service company. Finally, in May 2012, I started my own Sexton Heating and Air business full-time.
I spent my earliest years in France because my dad was a career mess sergeant with the U.S. Army stationed at Chambley-Bussières Air Base. My mother was a French woman from the area. When they met, Mom didn’t speak any English, Dad didn’t speak French, but they obviously figured out other ways of communicating. I don’t know if Dad ever learned any French but Mom spoke English well by the time she was speaking with me. I have no recollection of France because Dad was transferred back to the States when I was only two years old. Five years later he retired and moved to San Jose, and I started first grade at John F. Kennedy Elementary.
Following graduation from Yerba Buena High, Christine Ramsey moved into our neighborhood. Christine’s background was remarkably similar to my own. Her dad was a G.I. and her mom was French. Christine lived in France while her dad was in Vietnam. Her mom passed away while Christine was still a child, and Christine lived with her French grandparents until she was twelve. Her dad married a German woman, retired, and they moved to San Jose. Christine’s stepmother became good friends with my mom. Almost from the beginning, I think, the two of them agreed that it would be a good idea for Christine and me to get together.
Our first date was dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco followed by an evening at a comedy lounge. We hit it off immediately. We dated for a year and were married on October 6, 1984. We moved to East County and two decades ago bought the Brentwood home where we still reside. We have a 19-year-old daughter, Isabelle Jacqueline, who is a licensed cosmetologist specializing in hair and makeup.
Isabelle has her own Lavish Hair & Makeup Studio, which is just down the hall from my wife’s business, Christine’s Nails. Christine does our bookkeeping, as well. Christine is a dynamo and a major part of the reason Sexton Heating and Air has remained in business. “Behind every successful man is a good woman,” they say. Christine is not just behind me; she’s always pushing me forward.