Jamie Nickerson learned the trades from ground up

March 24, 2023

Jamie Nickerson was first exposed to the trades as a young boy, riding around with his father during the summers. His father had a strong work ethic, and Jamie observed how appreciative his customers were when the job was complete. There was an immediate reward for the fruits of his labor. Add to that Jamie’s natural curiosity for how mechanical things work and the neverending advancements in technology, and Jamie was hooked on pursuing a career in the trades.

Jamie began with Jones Refrigeration in 1995 and progressed through a number of positions including service manager, vice president and his current role as president/owner. He and his partner Connor Jones bought the business from Dave Jones, who started the company. While learning the refrigeration and air-conditioning business from the ground up, Jamie also received a degree from Delaware Tech, as well as a bachelor’s degree in business management from Wilmington University.

With the growth that has occurred in our area over the last 10 years, Atlantic Refrigeration has expanded from 30 employees in 2013 to 62 employees in 2023. The company has also added available technologies like the internet and online chats to meet customer needs. Its standard is to make sure someone responds to customer needs within one business day unless there is an emergency, when the response will come more quickly. Jamie also feels it is critical for his company to continually focus on improving processes. “Having a strong team with people who have the ability to understand and resolve problems on their own is essential,” he said.

As with many businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted Atlantic Refrigeration. Supply chain issues made it difficult to respond to customer needs. Parts availability went from three to four weeks’ lead time to 20 to 25 weeks. Consequently, Jamie’s people had to be more creative in finding alternate material and parts solutions. The company also had to invest more capital to increase its parts inventory to assure availability. Even today, while the situation is better, supply chain availability hasn’t returned to pre-COVID levels.

A bigger challenge for Jamie and Atlantic has been the the lack of people with trades skills and expertise locally. As a result, Atlantic made a strategic decision to develop its own staff with in-house education. Jamie was an instructor at Delaware Tech for 18 years, and he continues to urge other employees to follow suit, as instructors are in a great position to identify the best people coming out of formal training programs. Lastly, Atlantic has set up the Coolie Foundation (named after the penguin mascot on company vehicles) that awards scholarships to folks looking to enter any type of trade.

Jamie believes pursuing a trade is more advantageous for some people than college. While there has been a stigma that a trades career isn’t as important or as lucrative as other jobs, that is simply no longer the case. Graduating from a trade school means no expensive student debt. It also means a starting salary of somewhere around $60,000, with significant opportunities to be paid more because of the increasing demand for people with these kinds of skills.

In the current labor market, Jamie said, “It is essential to have a strong work culture.” As a result, Atlantic strives to ensure employees enjoy a balance between work and their personal life. He also emphasizes a family-like environment at work where everyone looks after each other and builds strong interpersonal relationships. Lastly, Jamie recognizes there is great value in being able to help others. Atlantic’s staff recognizes that many people in area communities are struggling, and each year the employees adopt a family from each of the local school districts to help during the holiday season.

One of Jamie’s most rewarding moments was the decision to develop a plumbing business, because of the natural fit with his background. In 2022, the firm acquired a fourth-generation local business, Clendaniel’s Plumbing. Jamie feels fortunate to have found a local business that had such a strong reputation in the community. With Atlantic’s resources behind them, he looks forward to growing an even stronger plumbing business to serve the community.

Jamie has learned several important lessons in the business world, and he also credits his mentor, Dave Jones, with helping him along the way. 1. You can never communicate too much. People frequently assume someone else knows what they do not, and that’s when problems arise. 2. When dealing with a customer, it’s important to understand how people feel and be able to empathize with their situation. 3. People aren’t perfect, and mistakes are going to occur.

“What matters most is owning up to the mistake, and making sure that the customer or the employee knows we’re going to stay with the issue until it gets resolved,” Jamie said.


  • This column provides an opportunity for readers to connect with the personal side of business leaders in area communities. Many of our local business owners and CEOs are thought leaders in their community, and they can provide valuable insights and ideas on issues of common interest to all of us. Successful businesses are essential for a healthy and growing society, especially as people continue to move to this area looking for employment opportunities. This column will highlight leaders who are not only successful, but also making a difference in our communities.

    Jeffrey Fried has been an executive in the healthcare industry for over 40 years, including serving as the president/CEO of Beebe Medical Center for 24 years. After leaving Beebe Healthcare, Jeff started his own consulting and executive coaching company, and has coached executives in a variety of industries. In addition, Jeff has partnered with a company called Vistage, the oldest executive coaching company in the country, where he serves as a local chair on the Delmarva Peninsula and leads/supports a group of medium-sized business owners and CEOs. Jeff and his wife Sherry reside outside Lewes and between the two of them have three children and five grandchildren. Last but not least, they are the parents of two rescue dogs.

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