2024 AQUA 100 Winner: Patio Pools of Tucson

Patio Pools Of Tucson
All photos courtesy Gene Ragel Jr.

4 L 424 Aq SignGene Ragel Sr., founder of Patio Pools of Tucson, started building swimming pools in Tucson, Ariz., in 1946 with Johnny Austad, owner of Austad Steel Company. Johnny was a steel fabricator, concrete contractor and innovator. Together, they built many poured-concrete pools, water tanks and fallout shelters with an elaborate, steel-forming system. Then in 1958, Gene and a partner, Jack Wilson, both left Austad Steel to form Ragel Wilson Pools. With the introduction of shotcrete, they focused on residential pools.

From 1959 to 1963, Gene built approximately 75 pools a year until he moved to Phoenix, where he designed and sold pools for Paddock Pools. In 1969, he was hired by Shasta Pools to manage a new company in Tucson named Patio Pools. Gene then had the choice to move back to the now booming Phoenix market or purchase Patio Pools. He took on a partner, Jon Evans, and together, they bought the business and changed the company’s direction to customer pools built to extremely high-quality standards offered at affordable prices.

“We strive to maintain lifelong relationships with our customers — from building their swimming pools to maintaining and servicing it for them, or DIY through our retail stores, and then later with remodeling when the time is right.” —Nicole Ragel, Vice President

The philosophy hit the target with the pool buyers in Tucson; within only one year, Patio Pools became Southern Arizona’s largest residential pool and spa builder. Soon thereafter, the first full-service pool supply store opened carrying pool chemicals, accessories and toys as well as patio furniture and a new product to the Tucson market — aboveground acrylic hot tubs.

In 1980, Gene bought out his partner. Within six months, the local economy was at an all-time low while interest rates on second mortgages escalated to more than 20%. Business was brutal and many competitors went out of business, but Patio Pools marched on. Then in 1982, Gene Ragel Sr. suffered an unexpected fatal heart attack. His wife, Dorothy, stepped up and took over the reins of the company during this critical period. With the support of her children in the business and an experienced management team, Patio Pools continued to grow.

Today, Gene Ragel Jr. serves as president. He is joined by his wife Nicole, vice president, and son Eugene Ragel III (ER), production manager. “Gene Sr. wanted people to have an affordable pool that was built with above-standard construction practices and high-quality materials. Exceeding satisfaction was his goal, just as it is ours today,” says Gene Ragel Jr. Patio Pools currently has three retail locations, two service divisions, a dedicated remodeling department and construction divisions.

The company’s longevity and success can be partly attributed to investing in training staff. Patio Pools has more than 20 employees CPO certified. This foundation allows the company to host Pool Schools throughout the year for DIYers and new pool owners. “It’s our mission to not only serve our customers through our exceptional service, but to educate and support those who wish to learn and do it themselves,” says Nicole Ragel.

Patio Pools also has a rewards program for its retail clients, which has proved successful in customer retention. When a customer spends $100, they receive $5 off their next purchase. Rewards program clients get special email blasts with additional sales and discounts not available to the public. This reward program has the highest return rate versus mailers than more traditional marketing.

Nicole says with the ever-changing issues in the world today, Patio Pools remains focused on customer service, innovation and new ideas. “Because we are so diverse, we really are able to weather any economic challenge,” she says, “but innovation and customer service are a must to survive.”

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