“We don’t just sell air conditioners and furnaces,” said Kathryn Whitecotton, general manager of Air Treatment Company. “We sell comfort.” Yes, comfort and air quality. That’s the way it’s been at Air Treatment Company since 1958.

It began with a sneeze. A Couple of Hank Towle’s seven daughters had allergies. Determined to improve their quality of life, he became an expert on residential central filtering systems and humidification. Hank made changes in his own home and watched with satisfaction as his daughters’ health improved.

Encouraged, Hank founded Air Treatment Company. Soon, he hired someone to join him demonstrating filtering and humidification systems door-to-door. That person was Kathryn Whitecotton’s mother, and her success led to a 37-year career and a lifelong example of dedication for daughter Kathryn to live by.

Over the years, Air Treatment Company grew beyond its humble beginnings to become one of the premier dealers for Carrier Corporation in Northern Virginia. Hank sold the company to David Simpson in 2003. David, a past president of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, continued Hank’s dedication to service and comfort.

As for Kathryn, well, she literally grew up around the business. Born in Germany, where her father was stationed with the Army, she later moved to Vienna, Va. with her family. When her mother began work at Air Treatment Company, Kathryn often tagged along. “I used to follow the shop foreman around,” she said. “I wanted to know everything about how air conditioners and furnaces worked.”

The patient foreman and technicians taught her everything they knew, and Kathryn took a full-time position with the company in 1976. She still serves as general manager, responsible for day-to-day operations at the busy company.

“I love what I do. This has been my life since I can remember,” said Kathryn, “and nothing satisfies me more than improving the quality of people’s lives: our customers and staff members. I see everyone as part of our extended family.”

Perhaps that’s why, whether it is early morning or early evening, you’re likely to find Kathryn at work in the office. “Getting someone’s heat working again on a cold winter day? Creating opportunities for solid, rewarding careers? Those are the achievements I treasure. I live for that satisfaction.”

This year, Kathryn and her team were honored to be one of nine companies to receive Carrier Corporation’s prestigious President’s Award. “This year’s recipients achieved their business goals while delivering exceptional customer value,” said Michelle Caldwell, brand manager, Carrier Residential and Light Commercial Systems.

Of course, the girl who grew up at Air Treatment Company doesn’t limit her mechanical fascination to furnaces alone. When she’s not at the office, Kathryn restores vintage muscle cars. Her first project, a pristine 1968 Ford Mustang, is Kathryn’s pride and joy. She also enjoys gardening and working with stained glass.

Give her a minute, and Kathryn will happily brag about her stepson, daughter in-law and “unbelievably wicked smart” two year-old granddaughter. (Another generation for Air Treatment Company?)

But ask why she trusts Tom Ivey and Tysons Auto Specialties to handle major repairs on her fleet, and Kathryn gets right to the point: “Tom and his guys are thorough. They don’t miss a thing, and they’re honest. They’re willing to take responsibility for the quality of their work, and do what it takes to make it right! That’s the way I do business, and I like seeing that in others.”

Kathryn Whitecotton, Air Treatment Company and Tysons Auto Specialties: made for each other.

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