|For 17 years, The Great Soak Hot Tub Company has served the mid-Michigan area as a hot tub, sauna, spa accessory and furniture business.
It began in 2000 when Joel Ladwig was looking to purchase a hot tub for his family. He came across Nordic Hot Tubs at an outdoor event and, liking what he saw, decided to do more research. What he discovered sold him on Nordic. Ladwig inquired about becoming a dealer as it seemed to be a natural fit with his water solutions company. Nordic agreed, the initial hot tub order was placed and The Great Soak Hot Tub Company has been a Nordic Dealer Partner ever since.
Building their new location in 2014 on Horton Road in Jackson, Michigan has been a great move for The Great Soak. According to Sean McKnight, Sales Manager for the Great Soak, the previous location was perfect for chemical and water conditioning sales but wasn’t showcasing the hot tub portion as well as they had hoped. Now, they see traffic of around 10,000 cars per day and have increased sales for both hot tubs and chemicals. “Our showroom has 11 hot tubs in it, which makes it full but, it really shows the tubs well,” states McKnight. “Some of our salt and chemical customers walk in and are really surprised to see all these tubs!” he adds with a laugh.
Last year was a good year for The Great Soak but McKnight is anticipating an even stronger 2017. “We are looking at better sales this year due to an uptick in the economy,” states McKnight. “We are constantly monitoring our market to see what our customers are buying and what is trending.”
Both Ladwig and McKnight put understanding their customers as top priority for the business. “One of the most important things you can do as a business is to understand your market, who your customers are, and what they want,” says McKnight. “We make sure to put our customers in the right hot tub for them for the long term. Customers will tell the world when they are happy or if they are upset. We’d much rather have them be happy!”
McKnight also feels that to be viable in the current market, businesses need to change and adapt to new sales venues. “We are doing a lot more internet marketing and advertising,” he states. “We have found Facebook ads to be very effective for us.” McKnight likes that they can market to specific zip codes, age and financial ranges to hone in on their target demographic.
Recently, they posted a short video that McKnight shot on his cell phone of one of Ladwig’s ‘characters’. After a couple takes he posted the video to Facebook. Based on the positive response they received they will be doing more of that type of posting. “We’ve hired a professional production company to make more videos,” says McKnight. “So, stay tuned!”
When asked what he likes most about Nordic, McKnight responds, “Service! The tech service guys there are great! The only time I was able to stump Rodney and Shawn was last year. It involved a cat, kittens and a hot tub….long story!” McKnight also states that Nordic is the ‘biggest bang for the buck’ in hot tubs. “We have to do very little service on Nordics,” states McKnight. “I mean, occasionally something goes off but they are, for the most part, very low maintenance.”
McKnight offers this advice to other dealers, “Understand your market and listen to your customers!”
The Great Soak can be reached through the website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
A great Nordic Display at The Great Soak Hot Tub Company, Jackson, MI.
It's Hot Tub Season at the Great Soak Hot Tub Company in Jackson, MI.
|Nestled on the shore of Lake Huron, almost to the straits of Mackinac is Cheboygan, Michigan, home of Rivertown Spas, Pools and Billiards.
In 1994, Joe and Michelle Panik owned several businesses within the Cheboygan area, including a restaurant. Seeing an opportunity for a new business direction they decided to purchase a hot tub store. The Paniks sold their restaurant and opened Rivertown Spas, Pools and Billiards at 10402 N Straits Highway.
In addition to Rivertown, the Paniks own and operate Richendollars Stove and Fireplace. Joe knows that in a less populated area, such as Northern Michigan, offering diverse product lines is the key to success. “We have unique specialty items that we service and sell,” states Joe. “We’ve been a mainstay in Cheboygan for 23 years. That has to say something!”
While the 2008 economic climate was harsh, the Paniks’ businesses survived and came through stronger than before. “We stayed steady through the recession,” says Joe. “The thing is, we don’t floorplan our stock, we own everything. And, we are one of the few left standing!”
In Northern Michigan, weather plays a big factor in the business climate. From all indications, Panik feels that 2017 is going to be even stronger than last year for Rivertown Spas, Pools and Billiards. “If we can get Mother Nature to co-operate,” he says with a grin.
Another factor that has kept Rivertown Spas, Pools and Billiards strong is their work ethic. Panik knows that treating his customers with honesty and being responsive to their needs makes him a ‘go to’ business. “People talk” states Panik. “Word gets around fast in this area.” Going the extra mile for his customers has given Rivertown Spas, Pools and Billiards a solid reputation within the community.
Rusty Hendges, Sales Manager of the Great Lakes Region for Nordic Hot Tubs is pleased with Rivertown Spas, Pools and Billiards performance with Nordic. He states,“Joe and Michelle are wonderful people. They have a great business with a variety of products. They do very well for us in the Cheboygan area.”
Around 2003 Panik brought Nordic Hot Tubs into their product line up and he has been happy with that decision. “Nordic hot tubs are practical tubs. In my opinion, they are the best tub for the money” states Panik. “They don’t go crazy with frills…they’re just good, solid tubs.” Panik likes the fact that Nordic Hot Tubs are made in Michigan. He also states that Nordic is a ‘practical and personable’ company to work with. “Early on, Maurizio [owner of Nordic Hot Tubs] even stayed with us up here when he was on the road. We’re friends and that means a lot to us.”
Joe and Michelle have this advice for other dealers, “Stay steady, stay honest. People are savvy customers – they don’t fall for all the gimmicks.” With the longevity of their businesses in a small town, that model works extremely well for Rivertown Spas, Pools and Billiards.
To contact Joe, Michelle and the Rivertown Sales Team, follow this link to the website or, find them on Facebook.
A great Nordic Display at Rivertown Spas, Pools and Billiards.
A beautiful installation by
Rivertown Spas, Pools and Billiards.
|Nestled along the West Coast of Michigan, in one of the strategic fruit growing counties, is the town of Hart, home our Nordic Dealer Partner, Country Acres. Damon VanderZanden, purchased Country Acres from the original owner, Pat DeWitt, around 14 years ago. “I was a golf course superintendent and wanted to get into something different and little more stable” states VanderZanden. “We owned the Laundromat next door and when we heard Pat was going to retire, we decided to purchase the hot tub store!” he says with a grin.
In summer, Oceana County bustles with activity as fruit season peaks and tourists flock to the State Park Sand Dune area just west of Hart. Winters have been milder and the snowmobiling season has dwindled over the last decade. As a business owner in a seasonal area, VanderZanden knows diversifying is the key to success. In addition to the Laundromat and Country Acres, VanderZanden also runs a carpet cleaning business. “But we’re getting out of the snowmobile parts and clothing,” he adds. “It was a good run but we are moving on.”
Customer satisfaction is also very important in a smaller community. “What sets us apart is our service,” says VanderZanden. “One of the best marketing tools for us is word of mouth. We get a ton of referrals each year not just for hot tubs but pool maintenance as well. We have a very good name for ourselves.”
VanderZanden has had his challenges, especially in the Michigan economic climate. However, the biggest obstacle he feels he’s overcome is finding the right mix of employees for his businesses. Currently, Country Acres has 3 employees. “We have a great staff right now,” states VanderZanden. “Everyone is happy. I do the all the service and I have a good sales staff! We’ve found the best mix!”
Rusty Hendges, Nordic’s Regional Sales Manager for the Great Lakes Territory, is happy to have VanderZanden and Country Acres in his territory. Hendges states, “Country Acres has great growth potential!” He goes on to add, “Damon just does good, solid business! He’s a man of few words and is very unassuming but is an honest businessman.”
Country Acres has been a Nordic Dealer Partner since 2003 and VanderZanden has seen steady growth since then. He is looking forward to ending 2017 in an even stronger position than 2016. “We are seeing a lot of customers coming back from a few years ago,” he states. “They like the fact that Nordic Hot Tubs are simple, not too many bells and whistles. We love that they are constructed well, look great and are at a great price point!” On VanderZanden’s ‘To-Do’ list for 2017 is to get connected social media and a website. “I think my kids can help me with that,” he quips.
VanderZanden has this advice for other dealers, “Customer relations are so important! If you do a good job, people respect that and appreciate it.”
Country Acres can be reached through the website or by phone at 231-873-5009.
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