The PJ Mechanical Story

New York City Summers are Hot

For the Pappas family, its maternal side having immigrated from Greece through New York’s Ellis Island, the only relief from the stifling heat in their overcrowded, second-floor apartment came by sleeping out on the building’s fire escape, each child hoping to catch a little of the evening harbor breeze. In 1940’s, well before the advent of air conditioning, most buildings were brick and only had single pain operable windows. Except for an occasional breeze, the summers made apartment dwelling quite unbearable. It wasn’t until the construction of the Lever House on Park Avenue that builders began introducing a new technology called “air conditioning.” To attract moviegoers, builders began air conditioning movie theaters, and children would spend their days at the movies enjoying a rare but cool respite from the oppressive summer heat.

New Technologies, New Opportunities

The son of a butcher and a seamstress, Peter Pappas Sr. was determined to make his own way in the world. After two years studying at NYU, Peter set aside his ambitions in professional accounting and joined many of his friends who were arriving back from the war to go into a promising new field: air conditioning. With no money, his hard-working parents taught him the value of diligence, and Peter eventually worked himself up to the role of Vice President in a local company. In 1965, as a family man with two young boys (Peter Jr. and Jamie), the future looked bright. It wasn’t long before Peter felt an itch he couldn’t resist: he would venture out to start an air conditioning company of his own. “You’re completely out of your mind,” went the conversation with Peter’s father. But Peter was determined. He was often heard saying: “you just have to figure it out for yourself in life.” In 1971, he hung up his tie, bought a green open rack truck, hired a secretary (his wife Cathy), and the pair acquired their first office (the dining room table). P.J. Mechanical (“P.J.”) was born. With a magnetic personality, Peter was “a gem, the life of the party,” and his company quickly started to attract clients. Customers loved Peter because he lived by the mantra: “Always put the client first and the project first.”

Bouncing Around in a Green Open Rack Truck

As young boys, Peter Jr. and Jamie remember “going to work with dad” every Saturday in his green open rack truck, its bed filled to the brim with ductwork, and the boys bouncing along in the cab because the truck had no shocks and there were no springs left in the seats. Jamie would pull sheet metal off the truck one sheet at a time with a pair of vice grips, working diligently to earn each client’s trust. Jamie recounts: “My father’s kindness and ability to love everybody he touched was probably his greatest strength. Working with my dad from a very young age, I watched how he interacted with people and how he truly listened to them and cared for each person he worked for. I know that was the key to his success, and I know that’s the key to our success.”

Growing Up with the Business

From the time each boy was 14, every summer after school let out and their friends embarked for their summer activities, Peter Jr. and Jamie continued to work with their father at P.J. Each brother had his own interest: Peter favored operations, and Jamie followed in his dad’s footsteps in the field in sales. “I was writing purchase orders myself, bringing payroll to the men in the field at P.J. I did everything,” remembers Peter. After graduating from Boston University, Jamie recounts: “Right out of college, I started full time in the business, and 30 years later, I’m still doing what I do best.” After college, Peter took a brief, but appealing detour, a coveted management stint working for Macy’s corporate. While this experience introduced Peter to every part of a corporate business (H.R., finance, advertising, etc.), his heart really wasn’t in retail: “It gave me the experience of being in a larger organization and gave me ideas that we implemented down the road. I’m convinced that we were able to grow the business because of Jamie’s and my business background.”

Always Stepping into the Void

In the 1970s, landlords used to handle their own office build-outs, and they worked directly with many smaller contractors like P.J. They worked with nearly every landlord in NYC doing the office buildouts for their tenants. During this time, Peter Pappas Sr. founded Delta Sheet Metal to support the sheet metal fabrication needs of his clients. But things were about to change. Corporate consolidation in the 1980s and 1990s brought massive tenant projects that unfortunately left out most small contractors due to their size. P.J. stepped up to fill this new void, tackling some of the largest tenant projects in the city, such as Conde Nast, American Express, and Deutsche Bank. No other contractor could handle the large consolidations, and P.J. quickly became the go-to tenant contractor. During this time, Peter founded Expert Insulation to provide thermal insulation for sheet metal, ductwork, pumps, and piping applications to reduce leakage and energy waste. As the needs of the clients grew, P.J. kept expanding to meet them.

In the early 2000s, P.J. Mechanical took a giant leap of faith, this time working directly with the developers to build the core and shell of the building from the ground up, then performing their tenant interiors and the secondary amenities packages. P.J. was called upon for significant renovations at signature properties such as the Chrysler Building, Citicorp Building, Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, the United Nations, AOL Time Warner Center, G.M. Building, Park Avenue Atrium, NYU Medical Center, Weil Cornell Medical Center, Carnegie Hall, Carnegie Tower, and Morgan Stanley Properties. But their proudest moment came in 2005 when P.J. Mechanical was selected to work on the new World Trade Center Project at Ground Zero and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

Taking Over for "Dad"

As younger clients signed on with P.J., it became evident to Peter Sr. that it was time to make a leadership transition. In 2005, Peter Pappas Jr. and James Pappas were named co-presidents. The team of brothers then led the business forward to take on their largest undertakings yet: New York-Presbyterian David H. Koch Center, the World Trade Center site, Tower 4, the 9/11 Museum, the Transportation HUB, and several other milestone projects. The brothers then turned their attention to Hudson Yards, where their focus was on securing and completing the new towers that have risen and transformed the Manhattan skyline forever.

From Humble Beginnings to a Promising Future

Faded photographs dot the walls of the late Peter Pappa’s Sr.’s office at P.J. Mechanical, memories of its humble beginnings in a cottage industry where every client was treated like family. Both brothers attribute P.J.’s success to the foundation their father laid in genuinely caring for people and their families and always putting others first. “Regardless of the schedule, regardless of the hurdles. He was leading the charge, teaching us how important it was to deliver.” Peter remembers.

P.J. Mechanical has served several clients for over 50 years, a milestone that makes the company proud. The group now includes five companies: P.J. Mechanical Corp, Delta Sheet Metal Corporation, P.J. Mechanical Service & Maintenance Corp., P.J. Mechanical Building Services Corp., and Expert Insulation Corp.” For P.J. Mechanical, the future looks a lot like its past - being willing to grow with its clients, even if that means beyond expanding into new territories. “We have so many business opportunities in South Florida with relocations, so it’s a natural thing to be moving with our clients up and down the east coast,” explains Jamie.

Today, P.J.’s vision is to become its client’s indispensable partner for the premier HVAC installation and service experience, matching promise with performance to deliver comfortable spaces year after year.


We aim to become your indispensable partner for the premier HVAC installation and service experience, matching promise with performance to deliver comfortable spaces year after year.