Once known solely for its refrigeration services, the Ceres based IC Refrigeration, is updating its branding, simply to “IC” in an effort to reflect their now expansive line of services.
Imfeld Cloutier Refrigeration Service opened its doors in 1940, when Bill Imfeld, wife Margaret and business partner Paul Cloutier formed the business focusing on dairy refrigeration and mechanical operations. Two years later with World War II looming, Coutier relocated to leave the fledging business in the hands of the Imfelds. Because refrigeration was an essential service locally, IC grew as a business and in the 1950s relocated to South Ninth Street in Modesto.
In 1956 38-year-old Margaret passed away leaving Bill alone to expand into air conditioning services. He sold the store fixture portion to employee Gus Karros who later consolidated with Major Sysco. From that juncture, IC established its reputation as a residential heating and air company.
The Imfelds’ son, Dick, returned from college at a time when Bill became ill and was hospitalized with a collapsed lung. For the next 20 years, Dick led operations, pivoting into commercial HVAC service, while expanding into commercial design and build projects, luxury homes and unit replacements.
In 1997, IC expanded as a mechanical contracting company for commercial buildings, bringing with it a demand for quality, skilled workers. After a hiring spree from a Modesto sheet metal shop, Craig Top joined the team with his friend, Kevin Silva.
While working in the field one day, Silva connected with Don Baker of Baker Construction, to learn he was looking for a company to complete numerous projects for McDonald’s restaurants in Northern California. Silva took on the challenge, working nights in McDonald’s restaurants to convert the kitchen layout to design a more efficient food warming system.
That job led to handling new kitchen installations for McDonald’s throughout Northern California with the first location in Livingston for owner/operator Dennis Grasspointer. Continued work for McDonald’s helped IC create a specialty sheet metals department, now recognized within the company as the Restaurant Division with 15 employees. Aside from food-warming systems, hood designs, transient-proof (in some areas bear-proof) waste cans and even floor mop sinks IC is “now setting a standard for McDonald’s operations,” said Silva. “We’re constructing McDonald’s kitchens from start to finish.”
The business also works with Wendy’s, Dominos and Panda Express restaurants with similar services.
In 2009, following one of the worst recessions in many years, Silva decided on yet another expansion and created the Fire Protection Department, which includes commercial quarterly hood cleanings, fire sprinklers, fire extinguishers, and fixed fire systems for restaurants. By the end of 2020, this department grew to 16 employees, servicing over 900 locations in Northern California.
The sheet metal shop expanded an additional 1,500 square feet between 2018 and 2022 to accommodate additional machinery. The company developed a parking lot across the street as a receiving station for incoming freight and an additional 5,000 square-foot warehouse was completed.
Dick and Rich Imfeld, Dick’s son, sold their shares in the business to Silva, making him the sole owner of IC in April 2022.
Today IC employs nearly 70 employees, maintains a 50-plus vehicle fleet, and the workload is divided into four quadrants:
• 40 percent kitchen build outs and equipment;
• 35 percent commercial and residential heating and air conditioning installation;
• 15 percent fire protection services;
• 10 percent service repairs.
“Our focus right now is to rebrand ourselves from IC Refrigeration to just IC, because we do so much more than just refrigeration now,” said Silva, a 1986 graduate of Turlock High School where he was heavily involved in FFA and agricultural mechanics.
After serving as a naval airframe mechanic, Silva went on to become a certified welder and later completed a four-year sheet metal apprenticeship program. He gained his teaching credential in metal fabrication from Modesto Junior College and later earned a certificate in fixed fire protection systems. In 1997, he joined IC as a specialty metals and fire protection manager and worked his way through the ranks as vice president, president and now owner.
With a service area from Bakersfield to the Northern California border, Silva said his goal for the business is “not to be bigger, we just need to be better.” Currently, he has technicians working remotely in Sacramento and is looking to possibly have satellite locations in the future.
He’s also working to streamline operations to run more efficiently. A great example is using Fastenal digital lockers and vending machines that store parts. His employees use electronic identifying key cards and enter codes for each job, so when a part drops out of the vending machine it is automatically billed to that specific job. Business operates 24/7 so employees can access parts at any time and the digital tracking system helps with inventory management.
Silva said his business model includes hiring local and using local business whenever possible for material or supplies. He said they are currently hiring for a service technician, a purchasing agent and job coordinator.
Silva may be reached at IC, 2216 Rockefeller Drive in Ceres or at (209) 538-8271.
Renee Ledbetter is executive director of the Ceres Chamber of Commerce, a freelance writer & former journalist, and a licensed real estate agent, who frequently writes on business and real estate.