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The Passing Of Our Matriarch, Shirlee Hamlin

Recently, Air Quality Engineering, Inc. lost someone who was instrumental in bringing us to where we are today. Mrs. Shirlee Hamlin, our matriarch, passed away last week in her home town of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Shirlee and her husband, Don, built Air Quality Engineering, Inc. from the ground up some 50 years ago, starting with a dream at the kitchen table; to a contact manufacturer; to the state-of-the-art manufacturing company we are today. Their legacy will last for years to come.

AQE Building

Originally, AQE made commercial air cleaning equipment for Honeywell producing the familiar smoke collection equipment used in bars, bowling alleys and bingo halls. That relationship dissolved but “Smokemaster, Inc.” remained as a viable entity, still producing commercial air cleaning equipment for cigarette smoke removal. With a hand full of sales people, including the owners, they traipsed over the countryside with air cleaners stuffed into their car trunks, back seats and wherever you could put them, calling on bar owners and restaurants across the upper Midwest.

C-12 air cleaner

The C-12 was the original product, which is still produced today. The design incorporates the “Coanda” airflow pattern which is effective at recirculating the air and directing airborne particulate into the inlet of the air cleaner. The air cleaning mechanism is accomplished with a set of electrostatic precipitator cells which charges the particles and collects them in the same pass, returning clean air to the room.

All reps had to do was to bring the air cleaner into the bar or restaurant, plug it in, and watch the magic happen. Owners were amazed and eager to buy, and they did. Air Quality Engineering, Inc.’s volume grew to the point where a national presence was a possibility, and we undertook that challenge. With the help of some key distributors in high density markets, the business continued to flourish.

X-11 air cleaner

New designs followed, like the X-11Q, which is a ceiling flush mount electrostatic unit. Still incorporating the electrostatic filter cells, this unit offers the user a cleaner installation with a drop ceiling as well as utilizing the “Coanda” airflow pattern, which circulates the air effectively in a room. The integral prop fan is quiet compared to other air movers, as well.

After a few years, Air Quality Engineering was given the opportunity to acquire Honeywell’s industrial air cleaner business, which took us into a hold different market opportunity. The customers were a whole lot different as was the route to market.

Years later, we still offer the bulk of that line, which includes industrial as well as commercial kitchen exhaust products. Shirlee’s impact is still being felt today, and is sure to be part of the future of AQE.