Photography by Cheryl Holbrook, Newnan, GA.

It is a source of great satisfaction for the business owner when he can point to significant achievements on the road to success. Each achievement serves as a milestone, is a reward for past efforts, and provides hope and encouragement for future victories.

There have been many milestones along the way for Steve Tibbetts, founder and president of T&O Refrigeration, located in Fayetteville, GA. Together, all of T&O’s successes signify a journey of high excellence in the challenging and ever-changing world of supermarket refrigeration.

Tibbetts has persevered as a successful refrigeration contractor through a dogged commitment to honesty, persistence, quality workmanship, technician education, and treating people right, on all sides of the fence, from the customer to the employee, and the vendor.

Steve Tibbetts has always had a knack for doing things the “right” way. First, he studied all he could while working at his uncle’s ice-making plant and attending night school through Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES). He earned his license, and in 1978, found a job with the in-house service team of Kroger’s Atlanta division.

'Under-Promise / Over-Deliver'
— A Steve Tibbetts Motto

It was a great challenge, and things are done completely different today, but he sees the value in his early baptism under fire.

“I was more or less a ‘trainee’ which, in those days, meant they just threw you to the wolves. It forced you to learn quickly because it was either sink or swim,” he says. After about seven years, he was picked to oversee Kroger’s new in-house construction department.

“At the time, a man named Ron Hoffman ran the Atlanta Kroger region of 300 stores. Ron was one of the best men I have ever worked for.  He believed in his people, and he saw something in me. Three years later, when I decided to go into business, I asked him if I could bid on Kroger work, and he said yes.”

Tibbetts was selected to be the refrigeration contractor for several Kroger projects. “Without that, it would have been very tough to jump right into supermarkets. Ron gave me an opportunity I’ll never be able to repay,” he shared.

Landing those Kroger projects was the stroke of luck Steve needed to jumpstart his business, and provide a financial cushion during the late 80’s and early 90’s economic slowdown.

“Back then there wasn’t much thought put into supermarket installs. R-12 and R502 were such forgiving gases that no matter how the job was installed it worked.  I knew that if we could install systems with superior quality we’d have all the work we wanted,” Tibbetts says. Since those early days, quality has always been his mantra and this, he believes, is the driving factor behind his continued success.

High Profile Clientele
T&O Refrigeration has grown to become one of the largest independently owned refrigeration contracting companies in the Southeast. Sixty-five employees strong, T&O’s service and installation customers include Publix, Kroger, SuperValu, Save-A-Lot, The Fresh Market, Costco, Food Lion, Walmart, and Sprouts, among others. They opened a second branch office in Nashville in 2002, and they hold licenses in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina. While the majority of their business remains in Georgia and Tennessee, they are gradually expanding across the South.

The company has enjoyed increasing sales every year since 1992. In 2013 the revenue topped $12 million, and in 2014 they are projected to hit $13 million.