Texas-Sized Adventures in Retail and Service

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All photos courtesy Katie Maze

Nestled in the heart of Waco, Texas, sits Lake Air Pool Supply, a family-owned pool and spa company that has weathered many storms, both literal and figurative, to stand as a pillar in its community.

Founded in 1959 by Bob and Alice Hollingsworth, Lake Air Pool Supply initially started in pool construction. However, a pivotal shift occurred in the early 1980s when Charles and Annabelle Schrader acquired the business, moving it away from construction and into pool service. Fast forward to 2006, and Charlotte and David Jordan assumed ownership, bringing the business closer to where it is today.

"We got away from writing paper tickets and working until after dark," says Katie Maze, a marketing specialist with Lake Air Pool Supply, "and worked to modernize the business. We now have a three-tiered business model — a full retail store, the spa side of our business, and we still offer pool service. This has been a really great formula for us because when one tier is down, the others always seem to hold strong."

Now on its fourth generation of family ownership, Lake Air Pool Supply, with 40 employees on payroll, remains a close-knit group. This has helped to foster a culture of dedication and community, both cornerstones in the company's long-term success. As Lake Air Pool Supply marks its 65th anniversary, it has a lot to celebrate. Here, we dive into some of the key decision-making behind the successful business.

Employees are often recognized when out and about, especially when wearing their LAPS gear.Employees are often recognized when out and about, especially when wearing their LAPS gear.

Learning Lessons Around Growth

Something that has been lucrative in growing sales for Lake Air Pool Supply is not shying away from trying new products. "We are not afraid to take calculated risks, and we are also not afraid to fold our cards when we know something's not working," says Maze.

In making those decisions, Maze says, it comes down to teamwork and communication. "It's about cultivating a team who cares and feels comfortable coming forward with feedback. All of our employees really know their stuff, and they're very passionate about being good at what they do."

Another key tool in helping to grow revenue has been digital pricing. The company said goodbye to printed pricing a few years ago when costs were fluctuating like crazy. Because it's not lost on the team that swimming pools and hot tubs are large investments, they have a strategy to avoid sticker shock.

"When we advertise what the cost would be per month, the purchase becomes a bit more palatable for customers," says Maze. "We can say, 'This Freeflow spa would be $102 a month,' for example, or $86 a month, wherever it comes to with financing. That generates more interest than advertising the full dollar amount."

"And when you advertise the price per month it would be to add on spa accessories, a cover, lifter, steps, etc.," adds Maze, "those accessories suddenly become more affordable, too."

That's not to say the company isn't transparent about the total cost. "When customers think they can afford the cost every month, that's when we talk about the bottom line and everything," says Maze, "along with standard installation and delivery. This process pretty much makes the sale for us almost every time."

They also recognize they can't make everyone happy. "We never want to be a place where we give an answer we can't deliver on just for the sake of making someone happy," says Maze. "We have a lot of hard conversations with customers about not being able to make a deal work. Those conversations aren't fun, but in the end, we found that forming long-lasting relationships is by shooting it straight with them, and hoping they'll be back."

The company partners with Watkins Wellness on both hot tubs and swim spas.The company partners with Watkins Wellness on both hot tubs and swim spas.

The Waco Community

When Maze moved to Waco 15 years ago, she notes the town was significantly smaller than where it stands now. "We are fortunate that Waco has grown in population and continues to grow, and new housing construction often correlates with new swimming pools," she says.

While the community has gotten larger, it still has a small-town feel. "So it's important to capitalize on those small-town values, which are also important to us, and be present in our surrounding community. Whether that's in sponsoring No Limitations — a special needs sporting organization — or if it's hosting a fun car show, or going to networking events, or even just having lunch with customers, being entrenched and involved in the Waco community has helped tremendously to grow our business."

The community has certainly been tested more than ever these past five years, throughout pandemic times and during the Texas Freeze. "Ah, the freeze," says Maze. "That was a very hard time for a lot of our customers. After the world turned back on here in Texas, when the roads thawed and everything, we had probably 600 work orders called in. I mean, it was just insane the amount of people we were having to go out and help."

Lake Air Pool Supply closed its doors for almost a week, due to employee safety concerns, with nothing but a skeleton crew to answer phone calls. "A lot of people did not have any power or water during that time," says Maze, "and we did not want employees to drive. We still paid our employees in the interim. And I hate to say it, but it was a very profitable time period."

As for the global pandemic, the company was well-positioned to meet Covid-level demand — due to a happy mistake.

"It's a funny story," says Maze. "Our spa department manager had placed an order just before the pandemic hit, a full truck of spas. Well, he fat fingered the numbers, and accidentally doubled the order, which gave us the inventory from Watkins Wellness to sell during that period where you really couldn't get anything. His mistake carried us through the pandemic! It was one of the best things that has ever happened to us."

The company continues to find useful a number of new strategies implemented during the pandemic. After being declared an essential business, Lake Air Pool Supply started to offer curbside delivery, for example. "Customers would call in, explain what they needed, and we would either deliver the products to them, or they would pick them up curbside. That's something that stuck around after Covid," says Maze.

She says the business also stopped advertising discounts. "That may sound weird, because that's what has driven our advertising for so long, but we realized during the pandemic that our customers' mindset had shifted. After going through something so huge, we recognized when people need our products and services, they're not necessarily worried about dollars off. Instead, they're asking, 'How is this going to add to my life? How is this going to make my life easier, less stressed and make me healthier?'"

As a result, their advertising shifted toward focusing on health, wellness and relaxation. "It's been a very lucrative advertising mindset to have," says Maze.

The company does host one sales event, a two-day sidewalk sale, where everything pool-related in the store is 15% off. And in those two days alone, Lake Air Pool Supply pulls in approximately $250,000 to $300,000 in sales. "Because our customers know we don't give any discounts outside of those two days, we have a line out the door," says Maze, "and we only extend our store hours by one hour on that Saturday. So our customers know that if they want to get here, they better get here."

Owner Ryan Jordan, pictured here, transfered into majority ownership with his brother Cody Jordan in 2021.Owner Ryan Jordan, pictured here, transfered into majority ownership with his brother Cody Jordan in 2021.

Now and Future

To commemorate Lake Air Pool Supply's 65th anniversary, the company has a number of celebrations lined up and is incredibly excited to celebrate both its roots and what's ahead.

"We are seeing growth every year from keeping our nose to the grindstone and working really hard, crunching numbers every day," says Maze. "It's nice to acknowledge the company's journey. It's a testament to dedication, innovation, and adaptability in an ever-evolving industry."

This article first appeared in the June 2024 issue of AQUA Magazine — the top resource for retailers, builders and service pros in the pool and spa industry. Subscriptions to the print magazine are free to all industry professionals. Click here to subscribe.

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