|What does it take to be a premier pool and spa builder? Well, if you ask Dustin Lockwood, co-owner of Bontrager Pools in Elkhart, Indiana it is a broad range of experience, attention to detail and great customer service. “We build gunite and vinyl pools, in-ground, above-ground, hot tubs and spas. We have a large service and parts department and we like to take care of any problems our customers have quickly.” They also carry a full line of chemicals and pool and spa accessories for their customers.
Founded by Glenn Bontrager in 1977, Bontrager Pools became known in the Michiana area for quality built, high-end pools. In 1979 they added hot tubs to their product mix as they felt it was a natural extension of the backyard pool experience. Expanding into the South Bend, Indiana area in 1982 brought some growing pains but also helped them to be more responsive to customers to the west, toward Chicago and Lake Michigan. Having a quality staff is very important to Lockwood. During the winter, he trims his staff to 25 winter employees. “But we double that number in the summer when pool season is in full swing!” he quickly adds.
In 2004, Lockwood and Don Bontrager purchased the company from Don’s uncle, Glenn Bontrager. To add a degree of difficulty, they also committed to opening 2 new store locations the same year! “While Don came from the construction side, I came from the service and purchasing side. I knew a little about retail but not a lot about running the entire business,” states Lockwood with a grin. “Don and I are 50/50 partners in this venture and we work great together!” It is this solid teamwork that gives Bontrager Pools a firm business foundation allowing for growth.
Lockwood is very optimistic about 2017. “We’re looking at good growth this year,” he says. “We have more work than help at the moment so; we need to get more good employees in place!” Having more work than he can handle is a problem that Lockwood is happy to have. In 2008, during the recession, he and Don had to scale back considerably so the company could survive. “We scaled back on everything,” states Lockwood. “There was still work out there, we kept it going and we made it through.”
In 2015, Lockwood brought Nordic Hot Tubs into his product mix and has been very satisfied with his decision. “Nordic has a good product at a great price,” he states. “They keep the product simple and practical. It’s how hot tubs were originally meant to be!”
Having grown up in building pools and spas, Lockwood gives this advice for other dealers, “Work hard. Pay your bills. Know your products. But, most importantly, treat your customers and your employees as you would want to be treated…with respect!”
Dustin Lockwood, Don Bontrager and the Bontrager Pools’ Sales Team can be reached through the website. They can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
A view of the Bontrager Pools interior showroom in Elkhart, Indiana.
A lovely Nordic display in the showroom at Bontrager Pools.
The Bontrager Team is ready to help you into that new hot tub or pool today!
|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.
- Country Acres Pools & Spas
- South East Spas
- Royal Billiard & Recreation
- Altman's Billiards
- Paradise Pool and Spa - NC
- Long's Wet & Wild
- Minnesota Hot Tubs
- Hotwater Works
- Ratliff Pool Center
- Mister Spas
- Tropical Spas & Pools
- Pool and Spa Mart (Carefree LLC)
- Haven Spa Pool & Hearth
- Volunteer Pools and Spas
- Family Pools
- Signature Pool & Spas
- North Eastern Pool & Spa
- Sensational Spas
- Atlanta Spa & Leisure
- All Seasons Spas
- Galaxy Home Recreation
- THB-The Hot Tub Store
- Adventure Hot Tubs & Pools
- Advanced Spas & Pools
- Home Innovations Spas
- Kinney Pools
- Pool Works, Inc.
- Soo Fireplace and Stone