Her first day on the job as the Sanibel Air Conditioning, Inc.’s new office manager was the day after Christmas 1999. In the past 13 years, Carol Schapiro has seen the small family business grow from four employees to 14. In 2007, Schapiro was instrumental in the creation of a sister company called Sanctuary Island Electric, Inc.
One of her most memorable events is during the aftermath of Hurricane Charley that tore through Sanibel and Captiva on August 13, 2004. Few could get on the islands if they didn’t have a pass. Schapiro recalled how the dense canopy of trees that overhung Periwinkle Way, had collapsed, blocking passage to the islands. “We were worried about many of our client’s homes and air conditioning units – we had no electricity and no ability to look up our customer database because our computers were down. So, Bryan and Todd got in their trucks, driving to all the homes they could get to, and looking for hangers,” Schapiro said. “Hangers” are air conditioning units that get blown off their support posts or roofs and that end up hanging off the side of the house held by their piping. Bryan and Todd would return to the office with lists of addresses to arrange for the units to be safely removed. Many homeowners were still up north and had no idea what damage had been done to their homes.
Schapiro admitted that nothing could prepare her for the overwhelming workload that would face the company after Charley’s devastation. They were the only island-based air conditioning company and service requests immediately began pouring in. “Our customer base tripled after Charley,” Schapiro said, adding that before that, she had only a one drawer full of files in a cabinet behind her desk. And now, she simply motions to show the many filing cabinets full of customer files that occupy the space in her office.
Bryan and Todd Hayes appreciate Carol because of the huge contribution she has made, both at the time of Charley and in the following years, the growth of their business and most importantly the relationships she has forged with their customers. “Carol has always been a loyal part of our team and I have always relied on her to watch all the details,” said Bryan. “We will miss her, but wish her a happy and enjoyable retirement.”
For now, Schapiro has no exact plans for retirement, but she is looking forward to it. Her first order of business is trip to Boston, and then a road trip to visit her family and grandchildren in NY, NJ & CT. In addition, she’ll be setting sail for a Mediterranean cruise in September which she has been looking forward to for a while. “The years have been wonderful working for the Hayes family, despite the fact that they seem to have flown by,” Schapiro added. “I’ve watched Bryan’s four children grow from babies to middle & high school students, with just one left at the Sanibel School. Todd was single back then. He’s become a husband and father of three. Dan [Hayes] retired a few years ago. I’ve always felt like one of the family.”