Atera's Chuck Reynolds Talks About The Hot Tub Industry

Chuck Reynolds is an old name and face in the portable hot tub industry, having plied his trade at several manufacturers over almost three decades. These days he's heading up Phoenix-based Four Season Home Products, makers of Atera Spas.

We spoke with Reynolds about his product, which is mostly sold outside the dealer network, and how it fits into today's green scene.

This being the Green Issue, can you talk about how Atera addresses environmental responsibility?

We have several different features. Probably the thing that the customer appreciates most is that we have a cabinet made out of recycled milk jugs, which is called HDPE. That's used in a lot of different formats. For example, if you add sawdust to it, it becomes Trex decking. You can also add fiberglass to it. There are others in our industry that use HDPE for their cabinets, but they add one of those additives to reduce its price, and by doing so they eliminate the UV stability. So we're happy with our cabinets, and we've never replaced a single piece of a cabinet in six years.

Another thing we pioneered and we promote aggressively is something we call Atera's Choice Water Treatment. There's no chlorine, no bromine, no ozone, no chemicals of any kind. It's an all-natural enzyme product, using 14 different classes of enzymes. You put, say, 10 drops of a liquid into the spa on a weekly basis, and that's all you do. That's a really nice green feature for the consumer in a lot of ways. It extends the life of their components because they don't have the chemicals eating away at them. It allows us to give a lifetime warranty on all of our jets when they're using our water treatment system, as chlorine can destroy jets and washers and O-rings.

Our customers only need to drain their spas at the very most annually, and many of them don't drain more than once every two years, so obviously there's a lot of water savings there. Considering the drought a lot of our nation is experiencing, anything you can do to save water is a big selling feature.

But there's more to it than just the green aspect. I've been doing this for almost 30 years, as the sales manager for HotSpring, the vice president for Sundance and the vice president of LA Spas before I started my own business; and from the day I got into this business, we had consumers always wanting to know how they could make their spas cold in the summer. I have a personal thing that drove me, and that's having a family member with multiple sclerosis. For an MS patient, the most crucial thing they can do in the summer is to keep their core body temperature cold. If an MS patient gets hot their symptoms are exacerbated tenfold. So I wanted to provide a product that anyone could use year-round at any temperature they like, and what we found is that not only are we able to address diseases that can benefit from that, but a huge percentage of people in the Sunbelt states just shut their spas down in the summer because they don't enjoy them. They don't want to sit in 104-degree water when it's 104 degrees outside.

I originally thought the chiller system would be primarily a feature demanded in the Southern states, but at this point, six years later, we have sold our AnyTemp chiller spas in every state in America, with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii.

You sell factory direct. Has that business model helped you during the recession?

Over 80 percent of our sales are factory direct, and that's absolutely been an advantage during the downturn. Since we have the only product of its kind, when consumers are looking for that, then we're very comfortable dealing directly with them.

As you know, the dealership network has dwindled, and those whose doors are still open are under pressure. Then, our competitive hot tub manufacturers have some pretty significant restraining contracts with their dealers, and in some cases, if there's another spa they could be selling that may be very different, the dealers feel threatened and coerced and they're not inclined to take that risk. They're stuck.

So instead of fighting that battle, we've decided to go directly to the customers.

Do you see any signs that things might be heading in the right direction for the economy in general?


Just "no"?

I wish I could say yes, but I just don't see it. You know, the things that's just happened that really surprised me and I'm sure surprised a lot of people was when we finally got the democrats and the republicans to agree on a way handle this doggone debt ceiling issue and possible reduction in our country's credit rating, the result of that was that the stock market tanked. You know? We did something good and we can all finally take a sigh of relief, and basically the stock markets across the world tanked. That just shocked me.

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