Schneller Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing, a fixture in residential heating and cooling for 85 years, has been refocused and reenergized by a familiar name in the Tristate plumbing business.

Kris Knochelmann, who ran his family’s plumbing and heating business and subsequently was general manager after it was sold to a corporate organization in 1997, purchased Schneller less than two years ago.

Since then, Kochelmann has grown sales from about $1 million to nearly $4 million, and refocused the business on residential and light commercial work.

‘A Blesssing’

But Knochelmann says his return to a family-run business has more twists and turns than a ventilating pipe.

“It’s really been a blessing from God,” says Knochelmann, who lives in Crescent Springs and is a member of the Kenton County Fiscal Court.

Knochelmann was participating in a retreat at St. Joseph’s Parish in Crescent Springs about three years ago when a friend mentioned that Schneller, started by Rudy and Jean Schneller in 1928 was for sale.

At the time Knochelmann was general manager of the Knochelmann Service Experts, the Covington-based firm started by his family in 1968, which was part of Dallas-based Lennox International Inc. Knochelmann, knowing Schneller’s history and reputation, figured it would be a good addition to the Service Experts network.

Another Door Opens

What he didn’t know was that his own career was about to undergo a dramatic change.

Service Experts was embarking on a reorganization that eliminated Knochelmann’s job. Rather than accept another position within the company, he decided to leave.

Knochelmann, who started working for his father’s plumbing business while attending Xavier University, says, “It was the only placed I’d ever worked.”

As it turned out, Service Experts didn’t buy Schneller and the firm’s owners approached Knochelmann. In April 2011, he acquired Schneller. He’s focused on growing Schneller’s residential heating and plumbing business where Schneller first earned its reputation — Cincinnati’s eastern suburbs.

He’s also hired a number of employees who worked for Knochelmann Service Experts. Nearly half of Schneller’s 22 employees are members of Knochelmann’s family, including his brother, nephews and cousins.

There are literally dozens of heating and plumbing contractors in the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky market. To set Schneller apart, Knochelmann offers the services of a big company, such as around-the-clock house calls, while maintaining the personal touch of a family business.

“If you pick up the phone to us, you’re likely talking to a member of my family,” he says. “We’re trying to treat people like they are a member of our family.”

Still, Knochelmann admits: “It’s very weird” competing with the business his father and uncle started 45 years ago.

PATRIArchal approval

Knochelmann’s father John, who is 86, has given the move his blessing. “He’s happy we’ve moved on and doing business the way we always did it,” Kris Knochelmann says.

Schneller, which has a small office in Amelia, plans to add an office in Covington in May when the current lease expires on Knochelmann’s old building at 615 W. Ninth St.

Knochelmann says he’d like to double Schneller’s business over the next five years.

“We’ve got to grow. We have a lot of family members depending on us.”