Keeping Up With The Industry

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Winners of close to 100 design and business awards, Charles and Merry Wise keep their thriving pool construction and retail business at the cutting-edge of the industry through an annual pilgrimage to the AQUA Show. It's a busy and enjoyable three days for the Wises, who participate in a wide range of seminars, shop for products that peg their stores as exciting retail destinations, and attend the full gamut of industry social events. Merry Wise filled us in on the impact AQUA has had on the family business over the years.


"AQUA has always been extremely valuable for retailers and spa dealers, and I'm pleased to see it broadening its appeal to builders. I think it's really on the right track. The Genesis 3 component is great. Charles and my son Brock Stapper primarily attended those sessions because they handle the construction side of our business. Charles went to the seminars on tile installation and got a lot of excellent information. One of the sessions Brock attended was on landscape lighting with Janet Lennox Moyer. Both of them picked up a lot of new tips and techniques."


"I mostly attend the sessions on retailing, sales and customer service, and not only benefit from the new information I pick up, but get affirmation that some of the things we're doing are the right things. One of the seminars I found to be exceptionally good last year was 'What Today's Customers Really Want,' with Greg Welsh. It really focused on how to interact with and treat customers, which is something we all need to be reminded of and work with our employees on. It was especially helpful because he's someone who has actually been in the industry. He was also very interactive with the audience. I used to teach high school, and I know that when you engage all of the senses it makes you retain the information better."


"We benefit from the AQUA seminars in two ways. One is from the speakers who aren't necessarily involved in the pool and spa industry, but who are professionals in retailing, design or other subjects, and have a lot of outside information to offer, much like you would get if you were taking college-level courses in business. They give some good general principles and provide a solid background for people that didn't attend college, or those of us who majored in English and learned a lot about Shakespeare, but then ended up running a business. The other end of the spectrum is the seminars conducted by people who are in the industry and have walked the walk and have something valuable to offer that they have specifically learned from doing what we do. We benefit from both and I really like the mix of both kinds of seminars that AQUA provides."


"Getting to see all of the new products and technology is one of the best things about AQUA, and I always get unusual new items to feature in my stores. Some sell great and become standards, and others may cycle in and out, but they really help revitalize our showrooms and keep them fresh and interesting. One of the comments I get from customers is, 'You always have the coolest stuff,' which is exactly the reaction you want."


"Our retail stores are very tiny, but we move a lot of products through them. The whole trick with retailing is to bring product in and sell it as quickly as possible, cycling it in and out, so that you're not having to warehouse a lot of stuff. Having small stores keeps the rent low, and we make a very good profit per square foot by trying to push as much product through as we can. I've gotten some very good tips from AQUA seminars about how to do that."


"The AQUA social events are wonderful. We always have a terrific time at the AQUA 100 reception and the big Industry Celebration at the House of Blues. This year we also attended the Genesis 3 Design Group lifestyle events — the wine tasting and winemaker dinner — which were outstanding. We learned a lot and really enjoyed ourselves. They're all fun things to have at the show so that it's not just all business."

Store Stats

Charles and Merry Wise started a pool maintenance and service business in 1970, later expanding into pool construction and two retail stores 15 miles apart in The Woodlands and Conroe, Texas. They now have 15 full-time and seasonal employees, including two store managers, and use a wide range of subcontractors in their construction business. The stores feature water-analysis labs and offer an array of chemicals, accessories and toys. In addition, Merry Wise has written and markets to other pool professionals a book entitled Cruising Through Pool Care the Wise Way . Named to the AQUA 100 six times and inducted into the AQUA 100 Hall of Fame in 2002, the Wises are now AQUA 100 judges. The Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce have recognized their business, and they are the recipients of more than 90 prestigious design awards for their high-end pool projects. "Attending the seminars and the AQUA trade show enables us to constantly grow and keep from becoming jaded and boring," says Merry Wise.

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