Among the finest in high-end luxury residential refrideration.
By George McClure
A DIVISION OF THE THIRD GENERATION, FAMILY OWNED-AND-OPERATED TRUE® MANUFACTURING COMPANY IN ST. LOUIS, TRUE RESIDENTIAL was established to deliver the finest in high-end home refrigeration backed by a long legacy of commercial performance. We recently had the opportunity to chat with Andrew Shead, the company’s Sales and Marketing Manager.
GEORGE MCCLURE: Please give us some background on True, in general.
ANDREW SHEAD: When he returned from World War II in 1945, Bob Trulaske founded the company with his father Frank and his brother Art. It really is that quintessential American story of manufacturing that started in someone’s garage and grew from there and has continued to grow to now four factories, all in the state of Missouri, and all within about an hour and a half of our primary campus in O’Fallon, just outside of St. Louis.
Our first big market was the bottling industry, working with bottlers such as Coke and Pepsi, providing refrigerators to get drinks into people’s hands in retail locations. Then we moved into the food service business and then international markets. We now ship to over a hundred countries throughout the world, but all of our products are still built here in Missouri.
In the early 2000s, we entered the residential market because there was such a great demand and so many people were putting our commercial equipment in their homes. It was clear that we needed a better solution for them — for the same reason you don’t drive your kids to school in a Mac truck. The residential line offers the performance that we’re really known for on the commercial side: really robust systems that bring things down to temperature faster and hold them there more accurately. But then we refined that entire package for the look, feel and experience that luxury homeowners are looking for.
GEORGE: Tell us a little bit about the product line.
ANDREW: We make primarily built-in refrigeration. That includes our 42-inch and 48-inch side by sides. It includes our 36-inch refrigerator with bottom freezer and then this year at the Kitchen and Bath International Show (KBIS) we launched our 30-inch refrigerator with bottom freezer that will start shipping this summer. We’re really excited about that.
We also have a line of 30-inch and 36-inch column refrigerators that include both refrigerators and freezers. We have a 30-inch wine column that stores 150 bottles of wine. We also have a very unique product to the industry, which is our 30-inch beverage column. It’s kind of like the beverage center that you’ve seen undercounter for many, many years, but all grown up. It’s a full height, 30-inch column, built-in product, and it’s just beautifully displayed. It’s really meant for someone who loves to entertain, with space for cans, bottles, pullout wine shelves, and then this amazing pullout wine basket at the bottom that holds 30 bottles of wine upright; so it’s kind of the entertainer’s dream to be able to really showcase all of that.
Then we have a full line of undercounter products, including probably the best clear-ice machine on the market with 85 pounds of ice production a day.
The entire undercounter line is rated for indoor/outdoor use and includes beverage centers, refrigerators, dual zone wine cabinets, refrigerator drawers — a very popular item for us — freezer drawers, swing door freezers as well, and then maybe one of my favorites, single or dual tap beverage dispensers for dispensing beer, but also things like cold brew and kombucha, even kegged cocktails these days when people are doing some more interesting installations in their homes.
GEORGE: Very cool. I see that you’ve got 10 or 12 stock finishes for your products.
ANDREW: That’s one of the things we’re best known for. Over half of our full-height equipment ordered by designers and homeowners is customized in a color and finish. It’s really the customization that they’re coming to us for. We use a couple of different technologies to customize these refrigerators. We use powder coat. We have a 60,000 square foot dedicated powder coating system in our facility that powder coats both commercial and residential refrigerators.
With extreme accuracy and control, we can create these beautiful finishes, and that includes both neutral and bold colors. We have three blacks, our Gloss Black, our Matte Black, and then we have this really fantastic finish called Ultra Matte Black, which has a great texture to it. We have two whites, Matte White and Antique White. We have three bold colors: Emerald, Saffron and Cobalt — real full-saturation colors. We now have three, what we would call half-neutral colors. The first one of those was Juniper, which is like a deep blue gray. Sage, which we launched in 2022, it’s a really soft green that matches almost any kitchen green, which is such a popular color in the kitchen these days.
Then, of course, what we’re so excited about this year, our 2023 color of the year, Bluestone, which is that soft blue that again, you see this in so many homes. It’s a very timeless color throughout the ages — that really soft blue that belongs in so many places.
GEORGE: You’ve got quite a collection of hardware, also.
ANDREW: We have six hardware finishes. We have our standard stainless steel. We have a chrome, we have copper, which is actually a dipped copper with a clear coat over it. We put the clear coat over it so it really is a forever finish and it’s going to maintain that beautiful sheen forever. Then we have brass, we have gold, and then I think my favorite might be the pewter, which is a really dark, almost gunmetal-like finish which has a sophisticated look when paired with a lot of our refrigerators, especially the ultra matte black. But when I was out on the line the other day and saw our sage color coming out with the pewter finish, it was really elegant. I was really excited to see that combination.
GEORGE: Tell us about the Build Your True concept.
ANDREW: In addition to our wide range of colors already mentioned, we can do full bespoke colors for people as well.
For decades, most luxury kitchens had one of two options. A refrigerator that wasn’t so attractive, or they tried to hide the refrigerator with an overlay panel. Now that we’ve moved into a more food-centric world where people really love and care about food and care about preparing food for others, they want a chef-style kitchen. So hiding the refrigerator doesn’t quite make sense. You want something really beautiful, so the Build Your True allows you to create exactly the refrigerator that you’d like in your kitchen. It’s going to match your hardware or your cabinetry or provide an interesting contrast or a focal point in your kitchen.
One of the things we’ve installed in the factory is a full wet paint line that allows us to do automotive quality paints, so really, we could do anything that you’d ever see on any kind of vehicle. We can match any kind of paint specification, even if that has a metallic inclusion. At KBIS, for instance, we actually showed one custom unit in a British racing green, and it had that beautiful metal flake inside this gorgeous green paint and a super high gloss. It’s a finish like you’ve never seen on a residential appliance.
GEORGE: I also see that a lot of your units can come either in the solid front or with the glass, which makes for a beautiful presentation.
ANDREW: Glass is amazing for homeowners who like to entertain. When guests come over and see a glass-front refrigerator, beautifully displayed beverages inside of it, maybe there’s a charcuterie board sitting there that’s ready to be pulled out or appetizers that are about to be provided — there’s an instant sense of hospitality. And the cool thing is you can do that indoors with our full height product or outdoors in an outdoor kitchen because, again, every undercounter we make is UL-rated for indoor and outdoor use.
GEORGE: You use advanced LED lighting, which is particularly important with the glass models. Can you tell us a little bit more about some of the technologies inside the refrigerators?
ANDREW: Absolutely. One of the things that’s great about our LEDs, especially in our full height units, is we want to front-light your products. Just like a photographer would never put one big light right above your head and then snap a photo — it’s not going to look the best — we use a marine-grade directional LED to shine back into the refrigerator to illuminate the product itself so when you walk up to your refrigerator, whether a glass door or solid and you open it up and you’re looking at that food, it’s already beautifully lit and you’re excited about the food even when you first open the door.
GEORGE: And you don’t lose much by going with the glass in terms of energy efficiency?
ANDREW: You really don’t. There’s a slight difference in energy use between glass and solids. We use dual-pane glass on all of our undercounter units, our beverage column, and our wine column. But then the other full-size refrigerators like our 48-inch with a glass door or our 30-inch refrigerator with a glass door, that’s actually a triple-pane piece of glass, and we do all of our own glass door assemblies in-house. We’re a very vertically integrated company, so we build that triple-pane piece of glass to be as resistant to thermal transfer as possible. There is an argon charge in between the panes so that it helps decrease the transmission of heat in or out of the refrigerator, and having that triple-pane does add just one more layer of insulation for the glass door area.
We also use a solar bronze tenting that’s going to filter out UV rays, so you’re not getting the UV from the ambient light in the room, and also a silver microfilm coating on one of the faces of glass. That silver microfilm coating is meant to reflect infrared, so you’re going to try and keep heat out. You’re going to try and keep UV rays out and just let beautiful, visible light in and out of that pane of glass.
GEORGE: Great. Can you tell us any more about any of the advanced technologies in the refrigerators?
ANDREW: The thing that’s probably the most impressive is the internal workings of our refrigerators. We use a system called “forced-air refrigeration.” We move more air throughout the cavity of the refrigerator by blowing air across an evaporator coil down into the system. We use what we call a “cascade airflow system.” It’s going to cascade from the top of the refrigerator down and around all of the shelves and it’d be drawn across the drawers in the bottom of our full-size refrigerators to actually keep the drawers themselves cold and then back through the system.
Forced-air refrigeration, you can think about it very similarly to what you’d see in a convection oven, where they’re using a fan to move more air around the oven and bring things to temperature faster and more evenly. It’s the same principle inside of a refrigerator, because ultimately the best way to preserve food is to get it down to temperature and then hold it there really accurately. One of the things that helps us do that is not just the actual system that we have, but it’s the heavy-gauge stainless steel that the unit is built out of. That acts as basically a large thermal battery.
When you’ve brought all that heavy-gauge stainless steel down to temperature, say your refrigerator’s set at 36, it’s going to be very hard to move that refrigerator off of that 36-degree temperature. For instance, when you make a big pot of soup for the family and you have leftovers, you load that into the refrigerator, and usually, in your standard home fridge, you’re going to get a big temperature spike. Then it’s going to take a while for that to come back down to temperature, maybe even overnight. So your whole fridge is going to be out of its set temp.
With our unit, because you have so much more stainless steel on the inside that’s all at 36 degrees, you might get a little spike in temperature when you put a big pot of warm leftovers inside the fridge, but we’re going to bring it back down to temperature much, much faster.
GEORGE: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
ANDREW: I think I mentioned that all of our undercounter units are UL-rated for outdoor use, but I can’t emphasize that enough. We see the rise of outdoor kitchens to be an absolutely massive feature in today’s luxury homes. It doesn’t seem like there’s a custom home built these days that doesn’t include some sort of gorgeous outdoor space. Historically, the options for that were, from a design standpoint, a little pedestrian. You had a whole lot of flagstone, stacked slate. It hasn’t gone very far in terms of design.
What we’ve been able to do since our overlay units and our custom finishes are available outdoors is really elevate that modern experience outside, and that’s while providing that really high-end experience inside the actual refrigerator. So even in South Texas or Chicago, roof decks in the middle of summer, our units perform exactly the way you’d expect them to. They’re going to hold that temperature. Your beverages are going to be cold, your food’s going to be cold and you’re right next to the grill ready to have that great outdoor experience.
If you can stay outside and enjoy that hospitality that you’re providing to your guests and not have to run back inside to get a beverage or prepare the food for the grill, you actually get to just stay and host and enjoy people’s company. All the studies show that what makes us happier people are those relationships in our lives, so anything we can do to enable those conversations and experiences that homeowners want to have with their friends, their extended family, that’s really what we’re about.