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Starting Over

09/01/2022 02:41 AM By Lisa Anderson
Ocala's Hispanic Community
Alfredo Domenech
Alfredo Domenech
Story & Photo by Lisa Anderson

Starting Over

Tradesman Begins a New Life in Florida

Alfredo Domenech ran a successful HVAC business in Puerto Rico, until the economy collapsed in 2013-2014. “I was very successful. I made a lot of money [there], but I thought everything was done by my efforts. I neglected my family and worked really extended hours. I lost out on a lot with my kids, when they were small, because I thought I was doing the right thing. I lost everything, [and that’s when] I recognized that without God first, family second, and business third… That’s my priority now.”

A Fork in the Road

Alfredo was born and raised in New York City until the age of 14. The hustle and bustle of the city and the challenges of his single mother took them to Puerto Rico to be near his mother’s family. “[It] was a drastic change—very hard to adapt—coming from a city to the countryside where there was nothing around you.”

Alfredo and his brother spoke very little Spanish when they arrived in their new home. “My mom inspired us. She almost obligated us to read the newspaper, read magazines. We learned really quickly. We had no choice.”

After high school, Alfredo decided to serve in the Army. “I wanted to have a military career,” he recalls, but when his mom got sick, he left his aspirations behind.

It might not have been the life he planned, but Alfredo is happy for the life he was given. In 1992, he got married. They celebrated their 30th anniversary in April of this year. “We have two beautiful children.”
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Humbled

“I went to trade school, and I became an electrician. I moved over to air conditioning because it was a lot more money, and it was challenging for me. It wasn’t just pulling wire. I’m the type of person that likes challenges, and I get bored really quickly. So, air conditioning has been good to me. I love what I do. I love HVAC, because everything is different. It puts my brain to work.”

“In 2013, I had a very successful business in Puerto Rico. I did very well, because in our town, we had the largest concentration of pharmaceutical companies in our area. We had maybe 13 or 14 pharmaceutical companies in a 10-mile radius, because Puerto Rico, being a territory of the U.S., had given a tax [exemption] to [these] companies.”

Unlike Florida, most residential homes in Puerto Rico did not have AC units, but the industrial and commercial market did have them. Alfredo was fortunate enough to build his HVAC business by servicing these large companies.

The 2008 recession did not immediately affect the island, but when the tax exemption was removed, the pharmaceutical companies all left. “Puerto Rico took a little bit longer, but 2012-2013 really hit us hard,” Alfredo remembers. “I lost everything. I lost my company. I lost my property. I lost my home.”

In the midst of their losses, Alfredo’s daughter was planning to go to Gainesville, Florida for college. That’s when he asked his family if they should just move to Florida, too.

In 2014, Alfredo arrived a month ahead of his family to establish a place to live and settled on Ocala as a midway point between their daughter and Orlando, where Alfredo thought he would be able to get work. “I came with the idea to start my [HVAC] business here. Florida [didn’t] recognize my license from Puerto Rico.”

At the age of 40, he found himself back in school for a license he had already earned. Not only that, but Alfredo had to work for a company for two years before he could start a business of his own. “I quickly became their project manager. After two and a half years, I left and started Thermal Solutions.”

He opened his business four years ago. “The beginning was so rough. I remember going to Brother’s Keeper to get food. I was always able to provide for my family, and not being able to provide [at that time] was just heartbreaking.”

With strong support from his wife and their faith that God would provide, the family got through those hard times. “Little by little, people started to know who I was. I went from having no customers to a little bit more than 100 customers now.”

Alfredo does a lot of residential work, but he has also gotten several large commercial clients, which he enjoys. “I believe in one thing: I believe that God has been really good to us. I will honor Him by honoring my customers. So, I will always do the right thing. That’s my motto: Do the right thing.”

The family currently resides in the first apartment they moved into eight years ago, but they are looking forward to purchasing a home in the near future. “I’m starting all over at 50. Not a lot of people start all over at 50. I thought I had my retirement set, but that got cut. But, then again, I love to work. I’m not afraid to work, and I’m exactly where God wants me to be.”
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