Her first day on the job as 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 came during the aftermath of Hurricane Charley that tore through Sanibel and Captiva on Aug. 13, 2004. Few people could get on the islands if they didn't have a pass. Schapiro recalls how the dense canopy of trees that overhung Periwinkle Way, had collapsed, blocking passage to the islands.
Sanibel Air retiring office manager Carol Schapiro with Bryan Hayes (left) and Todd Hayes (right).
"We were worried about many of our clients' homes and air conditioning units - we had no electricity and no ability to look up our customer database because our computers were down," Schapiro said. "So, Bryan (Hayes)and Todd (Hayes) got in their trucks, driving to all the homes they could get to, looking for hangers."
Hangers are air conditioning units that are blown off their support posts or roofs and end up hanging off the side of the house held by their piping. Bryan and Todd returned 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 admits nothing could prepare her for the overwhelming workload that faced 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 at the time she had only one drawer of files in a cabinet behind her desk. Now, thert are many filing cabinets containing customer files.
Bryan and Todd Hayes appreciate Schapiro because of the huge contribution she has made, both at the time of Charley and in the following years, through the growth of their business and most importantly the relationships 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."
Schapiro said she has no exact plans for retirement, but is looking forward to it. Her first order of business is a trip to Boston, then a road trip to visit family and grandchildren in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. In addition, she'll be setting sail for a Mediterranean cruise in September that 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 said. "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."