Fathers and sons from left: Joe Nuccio, Bill Edmonson, Joseph Nuccio, Chris Nuccio, Joshua Edmonson and Michael Edmonson.
TAMPA - Some businessmen give their sons the sweetheart jobs, something behind a desk, perhaps, and access to an expense account and the Internet.
"But I believe in the school of hard knocks," Joe Nuccio says. "That's how I started, and that's how my sons started."
A quarter-century ago, he established Nuccio Heating and Air Conditioning with his brother-in-law Bill Edmonson. They sold air-conditioning systems, serviced them and did just about everything else. But what they remember most vividly is climbing into attics and installing air-conditioning ducts in the dead of summer.
In Florida, no job is more awful. Oh, working on a dark roof in summer certainly has its moments. Ditto for laying blacktop in August. But at least there's breeze and sky, and temperatures never flirt with 140 degrees. A Florida attic puts Death Valley to shame.
"I can still remember the worst job I ever had," Edmonson says. "Not only was it hot and dark in the attic, but the crawl space was only about 10 inches high. I had to turn my head on its side to do my work."
Edmonson and Nuccio are in their 50s now and no longer svelte enough, or young enough, or naive enough, to tackle an attic. But talk to their sons.
"You can only spend a few minutes at a time in an attic," says Chris Nuccio, 26. "Then you have to get out, get something to drink, cool off before you go up again. And it isn't only the heat that you have to watch out for." He has encountered raccoons and mice. Once he had to fend off an irritated rat.
Now, having paid his dues, he is finally working on the inside, in the accounting line of the business, and thanking the gods. His brother, Joseph, 28, served his time in attics as well and now schedules service calls. Edmonson's son Joshua, 25, has advanced to repair guy.
One day, the sons might inherit the business. But it will be a different business from the one built by their fathers. When the older generation came along, air conditioning was a luxury affordable only by the rich.
"Now it's hard to imagine a Florida without air conditioning," Joe Nuccio says. "There'd be no malls, there's be fewer developments, there's be half as many people without it."
The busy time is now. By mid June the phone starts ringing at 8:30 a.m. and doesn't stop until near dark.
"The business is all about service," Joe Nuccio says. "I know, everybody says that. But it's true. That's what my generation and my father's generation always knew. You please your customer. The younger generation doesn't know that. They think it's just about making money. And that's what we've got to teach our kids."