If you think the Ray N. Welter Heating Company has been located forever on the southwest corner of McRae Park, for most of us, this assumption is correct. The residential heating and cooling business moved to an existing building at 4637 Chicago Avenue in 1940. In 1960, the building burned down and was rebuilt. The distinctive mural of an outdoors scene that was created in 1981 and was refreshed in 2014 reflects the Welter family’s enthusiasm for hunting ducks and pheasants. In fact, third-generation owner/operator Nick Welter reported that years ago his grandfather hunted ducks in the slough behind the shop that is the present-day McRae Park.
The founding of the family business
In the early 1900s, 5th Street and 3rd Avenue South in downtown Minneapolis was the location of competing home heating companies. One installed and serviced radiators; the other gravity furnaces. Although the founders started off as rivals, their children married and the businesses later merged to become today’s Welter Heating Company.
The founder of the current business was Michael Welter who was succeeded by his son Ray N. Welter. Ray’s son, Nick Welter, the oldest of 12 children, grew up just across the freeway from our neighborhood (before there was a freeway) and guided the company from 1955 until 2008 when his son Rick took over management and operations.
Celebrating more than 100 years
While a banner attached to the building proclaims a 100-year anniversary, it’s become challenging for the Welter family to determine a precise date for the founding of the business. Just as the Welter family determined a date to celebrate, new information became available. Recently a homeowner living on the 3600 block of 14th Avenue South called to report finding a receipt for services performed in 1904!
The services noted on that aged receipt are remarkably similar to those performed currently by Welter’s 25 employees: installation and servicing of residential furnaces. The current lead installer is the son of an installer, and all installers have journeyman or masters licenses from the city of Minneapolis in gas fitting and sheet metal.
What has changed during the years since the early 1900s are the furnaces. The best one has a variable-speed motor that is 92% to 96% efficient compared to the approximately 50% efficiency of the old gravity furnaces. The Welter family and employees discuss with homeowners who are considering replacing their furnace three points: function, safety, and options. Those qualities – plus pride in their workmanship and heritage – form the foundation that will keep this neighborhood business going for the next 100 years.
By Sue Filbin