We interviewed the guy behind the viral ‘woke’ HVAC ad from Lansing

Owner Larry Kirchoff explains how Colin Kaepernick inspired All-Star Mechanical to become a ‘company with a conscience’

All-Star Mechanical is more than your average HVAC company. Aside from promoting its heating and cooling services, the Lansing-based company’s social media presence is also dedicated to promoting civil rights, social justice, and dismantling systemic racism. The company recently went viral on Twitter when someone posted a picture of an ad they published in a local paper.

”I can’t pretend like everything is ok,” the ad reads. “Gun fetishes are being prioritized, women are no longer in control of their own bodies. The earth is heating up. Black and Brown people are still being killed, brutalized, or otherwise harassed. Honestly, at this point, who gives a SH*T about HVAC. But if you’re hot, give us a call.”

Metro Times caught up with owner Larry Kirchoff, who explains how All-Star Mechanical became a “company with a conscience.” Kirchoff says he went into business in 2007 with no other intentions other than providing homeowners with care. In 2012 though, that all changed.

“I lived without having any real knowledge of what privilege was, up until Trayvon Martin was [shot],” he tells Metro Times. “It wasn’t even necessarily that he was killed. It was more the reaction when he was killed, and how they labeled him as a thug or labeled him as, you know, some sort of — it just was a stereotype. And then the people that sort of lifted George Zimmerman up as some sort of vigilante hero — so that was the first point at which I ever thought, ‘This isn’t right.’”

From that moment, Kirchoff says he dedicated himself to learning more about systemic racism, civil rights, and social justice, using his business’s social media pages as a catalyst for discussion, and educating others.

When NFL player Colin Kapernick was criticized for kneeling to protest police brutality, Kirchoff was inspired to go to a Black Lives Matter rally. “That was the moment at which I said to myself, ‘I’ve got to do something,’” he says. “I can’t sit here in silence and watch people grieve, and you know, the next person and the next hashtag.”

Kirchoff’s world expanded as he studied the nuances of politics and the systems in place used to oppress marginalized communities.

In 2020, when the pandemic was changing the fabric of society, not only because of the deadly virus but also the BLM protests sweeping the nation, Kirchoff took to the streets of Lansing and offered aid to those who needed repairs done on their home. Kirchoff was working for free, and asking that clients donate to a cause they felt was making a positive impact.

It was not only through acts of service did Kirchoff work to unify his community. Starting in 2021, he anonymously took out full-page ads to advertise his business and make social commentary on the current political and national climate, signing the ads with “BMF” — Bad MotherFucker. The ads would read something like “Black Lives Matter.” Kirchoff would change them weekly throughout the year, and as time went on, Kirchoff decided that he would create these ads with All-Star fully backing the messages.

This change caused Kirchoff’s business to gain more attention, as readers began to share and post the ads, gaining traction over the internet during the Fourth of July weekend.

Throughout his journey, Kirchoff cites Kaepernick as the force that has inspired him the most.

“I have the number seven on all of my trucks. I have the number seven on my work attire,” he says, a reference to Kaepernick’s jersey number. “Colin Kaepernick is the single most influential person in my path. He knew what was going to happen if he took a knee, and he did it anyway. And I really, I can’t think of another person living in my lifetime that has made such a huge impact, and is still largely criticized.”

The most important work Kirchoff says he did was investigating his internal biases, and learning how to address them. This process literally changed his mindset to be more aware of the ideas taught to the youth, and the stereotypes and rumors that continue to spread.

Kirchoff hopes what others take away from his messages is that education is the pillar of the motivation for change and growth.

“We have to get critical race theory into schools and into young children,” he says. “I mean, children are resilient, and they will see what is the truth, unless we deny them that. And that’s what we’ve done, we’ve really just denied the truth to generations of children in this country. I’m one of them. I mean, what I know now, if I had known then, I probably would have spoken out much sooner. If [more people] knew then what I know now, maybe we wouldn’t be in this position. Maybe Colin Kaepernick wouldn’t have had to take a knee. I mean, he’s not saying anything different than Muhammad Ali said. My hope is that there’ll be some policy change, so that we can make these corrections at the root of the problem, and then people will come together, I’m sure of it. But the other part of that is for people now who see what’s happening, but don’t say anything. I think the silence is deafening.”

Kirchoff is determined to help give a voice to those who are often spoken over and ignored, and wants to see people grow and learn how to address their behaviors and strive to create equality across the board. However, along with his activism, he’s still promoting his HVAC business. Currently, All-Star Mechanic only serves the Lansing area, but you can follow their social media platforms, where Kirchoff continues to create important discourse around social issues. You can follow their Facebook page where Kirchoff posts regularly.

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About The Author

Konstantina Buhalis

Romanian import and Greek school dropout Konstantina Buhalis was born in Bucharest, Romania, and came to Detroit in December 1995, where her first few years of life were enjoyed on the east side and Greektown. Buhalis spent her early years reading the Detroit Free Press, Teen Vogue, and Rolling Stone and began...
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