As we celebrate 85 years of Creating Customers for Life®, we also reflect on the honor of being a third-generation family-owned business for over 8 decades. Generation after generation of Bassett family members proudly stepping up to lead our business through integrity, innovation, and commitment to our customers and associates. Some of us have had the pleasure of learning directly from these leaders in our time with the company, others of us fondly listen to the legends passed down throughout our company’s history.
Today, we share some of the stories behind our Bassett family leaders and founders who made Bassett Mechanical what it is today.
E. W. (Al) Bassett
Al Bassett was the brother of Charlie Bassett and uncle to Bill Bassett. At a young age, Al became interested in refrigeration and went to school to learn the trade. In 1936, Al established the Bassett Refrigeration Company in downtown Appleton.
During WWII, he started building submarines and warships in the Door County area. Shipbuilding became the company’s major business in 1942 working for shipyards in Sturgeon Bay and Manitowoc, with a crew of over 40 men installing refrigeration systems on boats. This was the beginning of a long-term relationship with the shipbuilding industry that continues to this day.
Over the years, Al grew the business by diversifying its services. In 1956, the company introduced industrial refrigeration design-build services, creating an industry-wide reputation that shaped the company’s future. Al later purchased a sheet metal company in 1967 to add fabrication capabilities, and continued to add engineering resources to enhance the services offered to customers.
When Al started thinking about retiring, he did not have a long-term plan for the business. One evening at a community function, he talked about his concerns with his younger brother, Charlie, sharing that he would likely need to sell the business. Charlie said, “How would you like to keep it in the family?” That simple question prompted the future direction of Bassett Mechanical. They contacted Charlie’s son Bill, who was a young engineer with a Chemical Engineering degree working in western New York. They coordinated a small group of employees who then purchased the business from Al. Bill moved his family back to Appleton and became the next President of Bassett Mechanical.
Charles “Charlie” Bassett and Germaine “Shorty” Bassett
Charlie Bassett was the father of Bill Bassett, grandfather to Kim Bassett and brother to Al Bassett, the company’s founder. Charlie joined Bassett Mechanical (then named Bassett Refrigeration Company) in 1945. He managed the service department, increasing the company’s scope of services and building its reputation as one of the best in the nation.
After “retirement”, Charlie continued to make regular weekly visits. You’d often see him walking around from department to department gathering news and giving advice.
Charlie was a hard-working, dedicated individual who cared about Bassett and all of the associates who became part of the Bassett Mechanical Family. Charlie’s involvement in the company helped create our strong culture and the legacy of the service division at Bassett Mechanical.
Germaine, or “Shorty” as she was affectionately called, was the mother to Bill Bassett and grandmother to Kim Bassett. She was married to Charlie Bassett for nearly 60 years. While maintaining a successful career at the Outagamie County Bank for almost 40 years retiring as their Vice President of the Mortgage Department, she also did much to support the company and her husband from behind the scenes. Her quiet patience and unwavering support gave confidence and strength to the family and our company leaders throughout the years.
Bill Bassett became the company’s second generation of family leadership when he joined Bassett Mechanical in 1974. He served as President and CEO for 33 years.
Bill established the company as a market leader and expanded its scope of capabilities and operations. Bill’s leadership philosophy was imbedded into the company’s culture through a simple mantra of “We Answer to You®”. He used this promise to guide the company over many decades of growth and created a culture that will sustain that philosophy into the future. Today, Bill still serves as Bassett Mechanical’s Chairman of the Board.
Bill modeled respect for people by treating them fairly, honestly, ethically, and with dignity. His dedication to high-quality customer service is what brought the company great success over the years. He has been known to remind associates, “You are the face of Bassett Mechanical to our customers, not me. What you do for our customers each day is what’s most important.”
Bassett Mechanical has been forever changed by the legacy of kindness and compassion Bill has exemplified during his leadership journey.
Bill Bassett proudly passed his leadership on to his daughter, Kim Bassett, in 2007. This concluded a successful transition of the company to its third generation of family ownership.
Kim led the company through a Lean and Continuous Improvement initiative which transformed the way Bassett Mechanical provides value to its customers. In 2016, the company implemented a successful Behavior Based Safety program to better proactively reduce safety risks and hazards for associates and customers. Under Kim and her leadership team, the company has grown in both sales and competitive offerings, and has expanded to more than 400 associates and 4 locations across the State of Wisconsin.
Kim refers to her role with the company as “chief cheerleader”. She feels it is part of her job to encourage associates to do great things for Bassett’s customers, think innovatively, and feel welcomed and included as an important part of the Bassett Mechanical Family.