Hawk Mechanical balances an old-style business tradition with a keen awareness of what’s new in the world of plumbing, heating and cooling — and the expectations of its customers.
“We have employees that have been with us for a long time, and our business is grounded in the lost art of craftsmanship,” says Max Stroback, business manager of Hawk Mechanical that started as a service and repair shop. “With all the non-traditional construction in Taos, we encourage our workers to pause, listen and look at what they have to do before they begin a job.”
Yet, Hawk Mechanical has to deal with what Stroback calls the “cheeseburger mentality” of today’s give-it-to-me-now culture. In the past, work orders could stack up at Hawk’s offices and customers had little problem waiting a bit before a technician would come to do the work.
“Immediate service is required these days,” says Stroback. “I think that people who move into Taos from outside bring different expectations. We’ve added staff to be more available for on-demand service. However, it’s a balancing act between scheduling and what we can get done. Plus, keeping up with the technology in the industry.”
Each day, Hawk’s six field techs and three office workers make that happen at their office at 1132 Paseo del Pueblo Sur (next to LotaBurger). Technicians may head out to install a water heater or fix a leaky toilet in a home. They may finish up installing a radiant floor heating system in an office complex. Or, a crew may set up to install plumbing, ductwork and radiant floor heating in a new commercial building.
As in most trades these days, Hawk Mechanical’s technicians must keep abreast of the many advances in utility installation technology. Equipment is continually getting more efficient, better built and more tightly controlled. In addition, diagnostic technology — the sensors that locate problems — has accelerated and allowed technicians to get to the heart of an issue quicker.
“The combination of longer-lasting equipment and on-board diagnostic tools have cut parts costs significantly,” says Stroback. “What we used to charge as 50-50 parts and labor is now 10 percent parts and 90 percent labor. Equipment is so much more efficient, as much as 95 to 98 percent, versus 50 to 60 percent in the old days.”
One example is the mini-split air conditioning system. A small condenser and air handler combine with existing ductwork to essentially “zone” the house so that cooling goes to where it’s wanted — and on demand.
“With our wide temperature ranges in Taos, the newer equipment can handle the extremes without problems, such as heat pumps with cooling going only to certain areas in a house,” he says.
Another is radiant floor heating systems, which have been around for awhile, are also benefiting from more efficient controls — delivering as much as 98 percent of the heat that is available.
In the past couple of years, Hawk’s workload has trended toward the commercial market. New commercial markets are cropping up in Taos as the construction economy slowly recovers from eight years of lethargy. Recently, Hawk Mechanical has been working with the Elkhorn Ventures facility on Salazar Road.
“The light commercial market in Taos is a buyer’s market right now,” Stroback says. “Commercial drives an economy out of a recession, so we’ve worked hard to get that business.”
Hawk still has work at maintaining equipment at Chevron Mining, as the former molybdenum mine moves into reclamation stages. Repeat business from clients such as Don Fernando Hotel, Hampton Inn and Keith Randall Iron Enterprise continues to be a stable staple of the business.
Regardless of what kind of job Hawk is working on, there will always be challenges because of the vagaries of construction in Taos over the years. From adobe brick to cement block to stick-built — or some sort of combination — the buildings in this area constantly present issues for mechanical technicians.
“Experience makes the difference in Taos,” says Stroback. “We have the experience to know how to anticipate what the repairs will have to be according to the type of construction. It definitely takes more time to evaluate a project, but we do it.”
Stroback urges his staff to “take on an eyes-and-ears attitude” toward each job. As the business manager, he knows how quickly he has to adapt to changes in business climate — and his staff translate that into everyday work habits.
“We want our employees to use their intuition that they have acquired over years of doing this work,” says Stroback. “They get a sense of their connection with the equipment. Then, with their work ethics, honesty, sincerity and craftsmanship, the customer gets a high-quality job that will serve them well for years to come.
“Many thanks to all of our employees past and present,” he says. “Hawk Mechanical is a success because of all of its employees.”
1132 Paseo del Pueblo Sur
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