Waterfront: January 2004 - Taking The Time To Listen; Access Is Everything; Word To The Wise

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Taking The Time To Listen

Pool owner's suggestion spawns new product.

Three years ago Cara Kupersmith was frustrated. She wanted to enjoy swimming in a clean environment, but found the automatic pool cleaners available heavy and complicated.

The Cresskill, N.J., pool owner explained her dissatisfaction to Guy Erlich, then the vice president of marketing for Aqua Products, Cedar Grove, N.J., and a friend of Cara's husband.

"I was complaining about it to Guy, and we started brainstorming," she says. "He asked, 'What would be most helpful to you?' And of course I said something light that I could do real quickly without much effort, because I have one eye on the kids, one eye on what I'm doing."

Erlich was moved. Approximately six months later, he left Aqua Products to work on the idea.

"I pretty much sold everything I owned — sold every stock I had, sold my 401K, sold my other house, refinanced this house — whatever it took to get the capital behind me to make this product," he says.

Erlich is now the president of Water Tech, New York, N.Y., and designer of the Pool Buster, a battery-operated device homeowners attach to the end of a vacuum pole and can use to clean or spot clean a pool bottom.

But Erlich isn't stopping with the Pool Buster. He invites other homeowners to contact him. If they've got a good idea, Erlich says, he'll work with the homeowner to create the product.

"We're the pool adventure people," he says. "We're going to bring out the new inventions in this industry."

Access Is Everything

Healing Spa earns Arthritis Foundation commendation.

Hydrotherapy sure is great. That is, if you can get in and out of the tub without aggravating already aching muscles and joints. For the 70 million Americans who suffer from various types of arthritis, using a hot tub may not be worth the aches and pains associated with operating, maintaining and accessing one.

However, there's now a hot tub that addresses the specific needs of people with arthritis. Wallingford, Conn.-based ThermoSpas collaborated with the Arthritis Foundation to create the Healing Spa, the first hot tub that features specially designed warm water therapy jets that target joints commonly affected by arthritis. The hot tub also has a unique design that is easy for people with limited mobility to use.

The newly designed tub has even earned the Arthritis Foundation's "Ease of Use" Commendation. The Foundation had initially denied the commendation to the company's existing models, so ThermoSpas went back to the drawing board and got some outside-the-industry input. A Foundation-coordinated focus group, consisting of medical professionals and people with various types of arthritis, made recommendations that drove the design of the Healing Spa.

Doreen Stiskal, a member of the focus group, a physical therapist and the assistant chair of the Graduate Programs in Health Sciences at Seton Hall University, says ThermoSpas collected the focus group's feedback, and "99.9 percent of what we said has been incorporated into the Healing Spa."

After sitting in and testing every aspect of ThermoSpas' other models, the focus group suggested changes to the entry system, the filters, the cover lifter, the traditional captain's chair and more. All the modifications that ThermoSpas then incorporated into the design of the Healing Spa make the tub safer and more comfortable for people with arthritis to use.

"While all spas have the benefit of warm water therapy," says Stiskal, "the Healing Spa offers the ease of use that no other spa product does."

ThermoSpas' efforts have also helped earn the company the first NSPI Inspire Award. Voted on by industry peers and defined as the "Industry Nomination for Spa Promotion and Innovation, Recognizing Excellence," the award acknowledges a company's contribution to the hot water industry, embodying an overall spirit of pride, dedication and service.


While we're all glad that the slide rule is a tool of the past, some of us are maintaining hope that those spiffy string ties will come back in style.

Word To The Wise

Texas retailer and PT Cruiser fanatic pens pool care guide.

Anyone who's ever tried to make his or her way through a typical instruction manual knows humor and user-friendliness are usually in rare supply. The writers may know their stuff, but their prose tends to be dry and overly technical at best and just plain disjointed and hard to follow at worst.

Merry Wise, owner of Wise Pools in Conroe, Texas, had seen enough lifeless pool-care manuals in her 30-plus years in the business that she decided to write one of her own, applying the same easygoing and friendly style she's been using with her customers since she and her husband, Charles, founded their company in 1970.

Wise's new 54-page book, Cruising Through Pool Care the Wise Way, includes chapters on the different types of pools, pool equipment and how it works together, the basics of water chemistry, pool party planning and more. Wise's folksy manner has a way of simplifying what can be rather dense subject matter. Water chemistry, for, example, is likened to "baking a cake," meaning anyone who can follow her simple set of instructions can handle it.

The book even includes a maintenance checklist for readers to keep track of who did what and when to the pool, thus helping avoid chemical over- or underdosing.

And unlike any other maintenance manual we're aware of, there's a chapter on buying toys and games for your pool, where she weighs in on inflatable toys and floats ("relative to the cost, they simply do not last"), volleyball sets (get the type with a movable base) and water exercise equipment (which allows for joint-friendly aerobic workouts). It seems as if Merry's got an opinion about nearly everything water-related, and those opinions are based around the idea that pools and spas should be, above all, fun.

For more information, call Retrospective Publishing at 936/672-0675.

— B.K.


Pinhole photos expose pools from new perspective.

Photography has changed a lot in recent years. In this digital age, photos can be stored as information on a PC, posted on a Web site and e-mailed to friends. Who even uses a darkroom anymore?

But even though technology has made it easier and quicker to get the shots you want, sometimes more basic methods can reveal greater depth and character in a subject. Such is the case with these pinhole photos taken by Richmond, Va.-based artist Willie Anne Wright.

A primitive form of photography, pinhole photography is lens-less imaging. A pinhole photo is produced when light reflects off a subject, enters a darkened enclosed space through a tiny aperture — the pinhole — and creates an inverted image of the subject, which registers on light-sensitive photographic material placed parallel to the plane of the pinhole.

To get these brilliant color photos, Wright put Cibachrome color material in her 8-by-10-inch and 11by-14-inch wooden pinhole cameras. "The image came through fine," says Wright, "but it was all blue. So to correct that I put filters over the pinhole and got this almost natural color, and in some cases, it's even heightened color."

Because exposures for these pinhole photos were 3 to 6 minutes, unlike the fractions of a second it takes to snap a 35 mm exposure, Wright simply used a piece of tape as her shutter.

"Swimming pools proved to be ideal subjects for my unusual color photography system," says Wright. "In summer, when pools were open in my home town, there was strong sunlight necessary for long exposures. And people lounging around pools were willing to sit, lie still or doze while light, entering though a tiny aperture, formed their images inside the box."

Since 1964, Wright's art has appeared in hundreds of solo and group exhibitions in North America and Europe.

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