All in the Family

The Taylor family offers friendly and expert service the locally owned and operated Air & Filters, your one-stop shop for residential and business air conditioning filters.

By: Sarah Tindall
Photos by: Edgar de la Garza

I t doesn’t get more locally owned and operated than Air & Filters, the Coastal Bend’s one-stop shop for residential and business air conditioning filters, as well as the largest assortment of Circle E Candles in the Coastal Bend.

Since November 2004, the Taylor family has been providing their customers with the friendly and expert service that is their hallmark. It all started when Sandra Taylor, who had spent years in the banking industry, took a part-time job at Neal Air and Heat to help the company’s bookkeeper. Mr. Neal then offered her a job, helping his wife get a new filter store he was opening in the South Coast Plaza shopping center at 1620 SPID, Ste. 180, up and running.

Sandra agreed, and the rest is history. “Next thing I knew, they were going off on vacations and leaving me to run the store,” she says. “It was a small new store, and it took a while to get things started up. After three-and-a-half years of opening, Mr. Neal decided to retire and sell the store. Since I had grown to love the store, I talked to my husband, Douglas, and even though the store wasn’t very profitable yet, we decided we would go for it.”

Sandra and Doug moved to Corpus Christi in 1981 from Cuero, Texas, when Doug was offered a job in the oilfield. Sandra laughs that the country couple just couldn’t believe it when they found themselves owning their own business. Although it has been hard work and required a lot of soul-searching and risk-taking, Sandra says it has given her an amazing opportunity that she cherishes: the chance for herself and her daughters to work together and even work flexible hours so that they can raise their families.

Sandra’s daughters Jenny Remlinger, office manager, and Alyse Gonzalez, general manager, work with Sandra at the company’s south side location at 5206 Williams Drive right behind PetSmart. When Doug designed the new building, he asked Sandra what she wanted in it. The first thing she said is that she wanted an office big enough for her and their daughters to work in and a playroom equipped with beds and a room full of toys so their grandchildren can nap and play as their moms work in the next room.

“God had a plan for us,” Sandra explains. “We bought the store on Nov. 1, 2004, and we just celebrated our 10-year anniversary! We put our life savings into the store. I’ll never forget that day Doug came back from the bank with a Cashier’s Check in his hand, looking pale as a ghost. He was so nervous to be withdrawing so much money and taking such a risk, especially it being the slow time of year for selling filters!”

Sandra quickly came up with an idea. In the three years she had worked for the business, people would always ask how to make their home smell better. She was thinking about selling candles when a customer came into the store and asked if she was interested in buying a Circle E Candle – the customer was a rep for them.

“They’re quality products, made right in Fredericksburg,” Sandra says. “I tried two of the most popular holiday scents, and everybody who came through the door loved the smell and wanted one. Those candles got us through the slow winter months that first year, and we’ve been carrying them ever since. In fact, we have every single scent the factory makes in both of our stores.”

People love to buy the candles as gifts, especially since Air & Filters provides free gift-wrapping. It is convenient for customers to come in on their lunch hour for a quick gift, and wives even buy them for their husband’s office staff during the holidays. “People went crazy for the candles and never get tired of them!” Sandra exclaims.

“It’s just a miracle to me that it all worked out,” she continues. “Jenny is our office manager, and started working here a few years after she graduated from college. Alyse started working with me when she was still in high school. When she turned 16 and got a driver’s license, she would come work for Mr. Neal after school and on weekends. Even my brother worked for us for two years, and Alyse’s husband, Jeff, has now worked here about four years. And my nephew has been working here for a year, after moving here from Austin. We’re a small, local, family-owned business.”

When customers walk in the door to buy their filters, chances are the person standing behind the counter is one of the family. And the Taylors make sure their customers are treated like family also: Their filter sizes and brands are carefully stored in the computer, and they even get email alerts when it’s time for a new one. So all customers have to do when they walk in the door is peruse the candle assortment while they wait for their filters to be located. The vast warehouse at Air & Filters contains most sizes in stock and many popular brands such as Aprilaire, Honeywell, Lennox, Trane and Carrier.

“We have filters for residential and businesses, and if we don’t have your particular size, we can order it for you,” Sandra says. The store also carries filter grilles, as well as ceiling and side wall grilles, so if customers are remodeling or just ready to replace a dingy old grill, it is easy to grab one when they come in for their filter.

“People love it that they don’t have to remember their filter size because we keep it in the system,” Sandra says. “They don’t have to look for the filter themselves like in the big-box stores, and most of the time, there is no wait. Our customers love the great customer service and that they can drive right up to the front of the store, run in, get what they need and get out quickly.”

That kind of customer service is what has allowed Air & Filters to succeed and even expand in the Coastal Bend market. The company started at the Greenwood location, but Sandra knew they would need to open a south side location to keep up with the city’s growth. So she and Doug took another chance, opening a second location on the south side of town and then later buying the property on Williams and building the store of their dreams. Just three short months after their grand opening, the unthinkable happened. Doug passed away from cancer at only 53 years old.

“We would come every day after chemo and watch the store being built, and I’m just so glad he was able to see it up and running before he passed,” Sandra says with tears in her eyes. “But God’s hand was in this again, because I’ve got the store to provide for me even after he’s gone, and get to work with the girls who can work their schedules to accommodate the children. It’s been such a blessing. God had a plan for us every step of the way.

“It was terrifying first taking a risk to buy a new business that was barely profitable, then making the decision to add candles to our inventory and finally opening up a second location, but I am so blessed. I still thank God for giving me a store that I could run and work my own hours, and to have a legacy to leave for my children and grandchildren.”

For more information about Air & Filters, call 361-723-0130, visit www.airandfilters.com or www.facebook.com/airandfilters or stop by the stores at 1620 South Padre Island Drive, Ste. 180 and 5206 Williams Drive.

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