“My grandfather, Franklin Hohler, came to work for them in 1916, then bought and renamed the business in 1929,” says Rich Hohler. Over 100 years after 16-year-old Franklin Hohler first came to work in sheet metal, Rich Hohler is the company’s sole owner and operator. His son, Richard, recently joined the family business, becoming a fourth-generation sheet metal contractor.
With 123 years of experience in the industry, Hohler’s recently took on a project that’s a bit different from anything they’ve done before: the Lake Erie Arms Shooting Range in Milan, Ohio. “The owners had a little shop with an outside shooting range, and they had the idea to expand the business,” says Rich Hohler. “They had done a lot of market research and found a need.”
The new 94,000-square-foot campus has indoor shooting ranges but also offers club-like amenities such as lounges, a public café, event rooms, a retail space, a sauna and steam rooms. Club members will have exclusive facilities, including a dedicated entrance and a VIP restaurant. “They like to call it a Guntry Club,” Richard Hohler says. “We started the project in December 2022 and finished near the end of August 2023 with an estimated 1,100 work hours.”
The project is divided between the shooting ranges, with very precise ventilation and filtration requirements, and the club space. Hohler’s is responsible for the HVAC systems in the club facilities. “The owners provided the layout, so we took the structure, met with a local engineer and went through the whole front half of the building,” Rich Hohler says. “There’s office space, there’s retail space and there’s restaurant space, so there’s quite a bit going on.” Hohler’s installed five rooftop HVAC units that total 60 tons of cooling, eight split systems that provide 25 tons of cooling and three ductless mini splits for another 4 tons of cooling.
Hohler’s installed around 1,500 feet of ductwork for Lake Erie Arms, fabricating about one-third of it in their shop. “All our square duct designs are 100 percent fabricated in-house,” says Richard Hohler. “We have a full sheet metal shop that can do that entire portion of the job.” They fabricated the square duct out of 20-gauge to 24-gauge galvanized sheet metal.
The rest of the ductwork was purchased through a supplier and then hung by Hohler’s team. “A great portion of this project uses exposed spiral ductwork due to the architectural requirements of the job,” says Richard Hohler. “The building is all open construction with no real ceilings, so everything was going to be exposed to their customers. This spiral ductwork provides the proper aesthetics.” Some of the duct is installed upwards of 50 feet in the air. “Hanging all the spiral ductwork at such high elevations has been a unique experience for us.”
Hohler’s employs about 30 people in total. “We have about 10 people in the office and 20 out in the field,” Rich Hohler says. His journeymen move between the shop and the field. “If they need ductwork, they come into the shop, fabricate it and take it out to the job site themselves.”
Most projects are within 35 miles of the shop, so travel time is not a problem. “We don’t have a lot of traffic in our small community, so it’s very practical to drive around.”
The biggest challenge when working on a project of this scale is working alongside so many other contractors. Success depends on making sure communication is being properly voiced and that all contractors are up to speed with where the project is at. “Waiting for others to finish up their portion of the project can lead to some tough situations for all,” Richard Hohler says. Hohler’s coordinates work with other trades at weekly job meetings, and the owner of the general contractor was on site every day to assist all trades.
Hohler's was awarded the contract due to their long-standing relationship with the general contractor, A. V. Lake. “They have been a partner of ours for many years,” Richard Hohler says. “This type of work is right in our wheelhouse and what we would call our bread and butter.”