Behind the Scenes: Aztec Mechanical’s Past and Future

Nansi Martin with Daughter, Celissa Apodaca

Aztec Mechanical is a woman-owned and family-operated business. But that simple description doesn’t fully define the business with a more than 40-year history of serving New Mexico—and all the ups and downs that have come their way through those years. CEO Nansi Martin grew up in Albuquerque hailing from a family of Lea County, New Mexico, cotton farmers. She started in the heating/cooling industry working at the front desk of Anderson Air Conditioning, but the budding entrepreneur imagined a company of her own. She co-founded Aztec Sheet Metal, a sheet metal contracting business, in 1977 with Bob Usher. Nine years later, she bought the company outright and became the qualifying party for the company’s mechanical contracting license.

Nansi changed the company’s focus and name to Aztec Mechanical in 1989, the same year Chris Jones joined the company. Although he was a former competitor, she saw his talent for engineering and sales. “If you can’t beat your competition, hire them!” she says. With the New Englander’s design/build expertise, the company expanded from a sheet metal shop into a mechanical contractor with full HVAC piping capabilities.

Over the decades, Nansi helped the company navigate unreliable employees and economic recessions that hit the company hard. With every obstacle, she was able to bounce back. Her perseverance and the company’s reputation drew her daughter, Celissa Apodaca, to join the family business. The Albuquerque native originally had a cosmetology career, but she also worked for the business on and off for years. She joined Aztec Mechanical with her husband, Rich, around 2005. Celissa now works as the Vice President of Business Operations, Human Resources, and Development.

Rich’s down-home roots growing up in the East Mountains and working as a ranch hand and a mechanic prepared him well for his then newfound career in Aztec Mechanical’s service department. He learned the heating/cooling industry on the commercial side at first, but soon took an interest in residential service as well. With on-the-ground experience under his belt, he climbed the managerial ladder and now serves as President and Sales Engineer of Aztec Mechanical.

The business was humming along with this quartet at the helm when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020. Nansi was out of the country. With most flights back to the U.S. canceled, she was stranded. Faced with managing the business from afar, Nansi stepped back, and Celissa and Rich stepped up.

Apodaca Family (LEFT TO RIGHT: Presley, Rich, Reece, Celissa)

Although Nansi and Chris remain involved in the business, the next generation is now driving Aztec Mechanical’s daily operations. Rich is now the qualifying party of the company’s mechanical contracting license. The business has a long-standing reputation for excellence in design/build services. Celissa and Rich bring a strong devotion to service based on small-town and timeless values such as dependability and doing the right thing. Combining this duo of strengths, Aztec Mechanical now provides more comprehensive services to the industry from installation to maintenance. The future looks bright for this more than 40-year-old company.