Heating and air-conditioner installation has traditionally been a male-dominated field—that is, until Suzanne Kondra-DeFuria busted onto the scene. As one of only two women in New York to earn her heating license, Suzanne proved she could tune-up gas furnaces and improve a home’s air quality with the best of them. Getting the respect she deserved didn’t come easy, though. When she took the reins from Homer Potter, who started Potter Heating and Air Conditioning in 1944, she found that many of the company’s longtime customers and employees were unaccustomed to dealing with a powerful female executive. By putting her extensive education, experience, and Golden Rule leadership style to use, however, she eventually earned respect from her colleagues and clients, and she even became the first woman to serve as president of the Syracuse Heating and Air Conditioning Contractors Association. In fact she’s so tough that even while battling cancer she continued to grow the business and sit on the board of directors for multiple charitable institutions, including St. Joseph’s Hospital and AIDS Community Resource.
Today, she continues to channel her passion and impossibly strong work ethic into helming Potter Heating and Air Conditioning. Her team of seasoned experts travel to homes and commercial businesses with one goal in mind: to maximize comfort. To achieve this, they do everything from installing new furnaces and state-of-the-art Bryant air conditioners to fabricating their own ductwork to improve a home’s energy efficiency. And they even maintain a 24-hour emergency service, meaning they’re always available to handle any issues that arise or to remove any half-man, half-dust creatures found lurking in the ducts.
Don and Donna Maines opened Green Thumb Markets in 1971, where they began cultivating buds alongside their young son, David. Though Don and Donna have retired, visitors can still spot David, his wife, and his four boys working in their greenhouse. They tend geraniums, prune roses, and discuss customers’ gardening concerns and methods for keeping lazy poets from using their roses as similes. Giant hanging baskets dangle from the ceiling, the electrically hued, trumpet-shaped blossoms of petunias spilling forth and tangling with ivy geraniums. On the ground, colorful rows of perennials, annuals, and vegetables thrive alongside a variety of topsoils, compost, and environmentally friendly mulches.
The Maines family also runs an onsite bakery, which they stock with their own homemade ice cream, cookies, and pies.
The do-it-yourself project experts at True Value can advise on the proper implements needed to complete an array of home-improvement jobs. Be prepared to upgrade hardware and assemble furniture with both slotted and Phillips heads thanks to a six-piece screwdriver set ($16.99), each forged from corrosion-resistant steel and heat-treated in a hot tub filled with magma to ensure durability. For carpentry undertakings, Titebond original wood glue ($5.99 for 16 oz.) unites any tree-based surfaces. True Value's team also supplies safety equipment, including mirrored safety glasses ($18.99) that can block the eyes from UV rays and airborne wood shavings when sharpening toothpicks that hang from the mouths of the Mount Rushmore faces. Craftsmen can stash their repair implements in a 19-in. all-purpose toolbox ($41.99).