|Do you know someone who is doing what they were born to do? Well, when you talk to Chuck Stafford, Co-Owner of Van Dorn Pools & Spas in Reisterstown, Maryland you know he’s one of those people. Chuck is enthusiastic about the pool and spa industry and speaks with pride about his staff and his company.
Stafford has been in the pool and spa industry since 1978. As he tells it, “I was 16 years old and needed a job. My father was friends with the Nields [then owners of Van Dorn Pools & Spas] and arranged that one of his 3 sons would work for them. I was the selected son!” He worked his way up from construction into sales, eventually purchasing the company from the Nields in 1998. “My brother Jay purchased half of the business and brought in a strong construction background,” says Stafford.
Van Dorn Pools & Spas sells and installs pools, both in-ground and above-ground, hot tubs and all the chemicals and supplies needed to make pool or spa ownership a breeze. During the pool building season, their staff increases to around 24 with 3 active construction crews but business stays steady throughout the rest of the year with sales, service and maintenance work.
Stafford feels his mission is to make sure his customers have the best experience when they purchase a pool or hot tub from Van Dorn Pools & Spas. “It’s something we continually strive to make even better,” says Stafford. Owning a brick and mortar business in the age of technology and social media has its challenges and keeps Stafford increasingly vigilant about the level of customer service they offer. “Having been in the business for 40 years, we see a difference between the generations,” says Stafford. “People are much more informed and particular now but, when they deal with us they know we’re the real thing. It’s all about having great customers and great employees!”
Donna Gaven, Assistant Store Manager for Van Dorn Pools & Spas at the Kingsville, Maryland location echoes Stafford’s thoughts, “What sets us apart is that we are a smaller and family owned. We have long term employees who are experienced and very knowledgeable.”
From 2006 through 2008 was a difficult time for the Staffords and Van Dorn Pools & Spas. “We’re glad we got through because many didn’t,” says Stafford. “What got us through is that we have an exclusive product mix and loyal relationships with our manufacturers.” He adds, “Customers see that history and it makes them confident to work with us!”
Both Stafford and Gaven are looking forward to growing the client base for Van Dorn Pools & Spas over the next few years. “Our goal is always to beat last year’s sales. It’s a fun game and we like to have fun!” says Gaven with a wide grin.
Gaven’s other distinction, aside from being an Assistant Store Manager for Van Dorn Pools & Spas, is she is also a Nordic Hot Tub owner! “I love my Retreat MS,” says Gaven emphatically. “Nordic’s hot tubs rarely need service! They are simple and easy! Plus, they are efficient and cost very little to operate!” Stafford agrees and is happy with his decision to bring in the Nordic line seven years ago. “They [Nordic] fit right into our product mix and allow us to bring in a broader customer mix,” he states.
What advice do they have for other dealers? “Stay true to your products! Find the product mix that works for your customers and treat them right!” says Gaven.
Chuck Stafford, Donna Gaven and the Van Dorn Sales Team can be reached through the website or, find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
Van Dorn Pools & Spas located on
Main Street in Reisterstown, Maryland.
Van Dorn Pools & Spas' Kingsville, Maryland location on Belair Road.
Van Dorn Pools & Spas' Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania location on
East Forrest Ave.
|We welcome Pinch A Penny #32 as one of our newest Nordic Dealer Partners! Owned by Mark and Laurie Barnett, the Pinch A Penny Store #32 is located in the town of Ocala, Florida and is part of the larger Pinch A Penny franchise network headquartered in Clearwater, Florida.
Mark started out in the pool and spa industry in 1988 by working on electrical systems for pools. From there he moved into the manufacturing side of the industry and was a Product Specialist for pool equipment until last year. As Mark states, “I have friends that own Pinch A Penny stores and they have done pretty well, so I figured, why not?” Pinch A Penny has a ‘family owned’ culture which appeals to Mark and Laurie.
The Barnetts took over the Ocala franchise at the beginning of 2017 and worked tirelessly to update their store, establish good business systems and put a stellar team together. Mark and Laurie are people who see challenges as opportunities. When asked what their biggest challenge has been, Mark answers with a grin, “It’s too soon. I haven’t really encountered any yet!” But he quickly adds that becoming accustomed to the retail side of business along with the franchise culture has been a learning curve.
Mark is very confident that his experience in both the manufacturing and installation of pools, spas and equipment gives him and his team a leg up on the competition. “I don’t really pay a lot of attention to what the competition is doing, I just do it my way,” says Mark.
Jerry Kisgen, Regional Sales Manager for Nordic Hot Tubs, feels that the Barnetts are on the right path as he states, “Mark and Laurie seem to know instinctively what to do to make their store a success. They are well versed in the industry and are good people to work with. We’re happy to welcome them into the Nordic Dealer Family!”
In looking forward to 2018, Mark says he feels like he has a split personality. “I want warm weather for the pool side of my business and cool weather for the hot tub side!” he laughs. Regardless of the weather, he and Laurie will continue to build their sales and clientele. “In addition to our pool and spa equipment, we also offer warranty service work, cleaning and other services. We also offer very high quality artificial turf which makes the yard look great, it’s permeable so water drains well and it minimizes debris in and around a pool!” states Mark. The products and services they offer are all focused on turning backyards and patios into backyard oases.
Mark brought in Nordic Hot Tubs early in 2017. “We like that Nordic tubs are more simplified and all USA driven.” Additionally, Mark feels the HDPE shell material holds up better in the southern climates as they don’t fade or dull in the heat.
The Barnetts come into retail with a fresh approach and Mark offers this advice to other dealers, “Don’t pre-judge a customer.” He feels every customer is someone you can help in some way unless you’ve already decided you can’t.
Mark and Laurie Barnett and the Pinch A Penny #32 Sales Team can be reached through the website or find them on Facebook.
Storefront of Pinch A Penny #32 located in Ocala, Florida.
The beautifully remodeled showroom
of Pinch A Penny #32.
|Located about 42 minutes East of Philadelphia, is Coatesville, Pennsylvania home to Gritz Pools. Founded by Henry Gritz in 1963, Gritz Pools has been building in-ground vinyl pools for satisfied customers in and around Coatesville for over 54 years!
When Henry retired in 1984, his son, Mark took over. Mark had a different vision for the business and embarked on a steady process of updating and streamlining processes. Henry had built a solid reputation for the business with quality, hand-built products and workmanship. Mark felt strongly about continuing the tradition but, with a few modifications.
Mark researched heavily, upgraded suppliers and brought in lines of hot tubs and equipment to round out the inventory. Currently, Gritz Pools builds in-ground vinyl liner pools, installs outdoor showers, performs pool demolitions and provides pool water delivery. They sell and install hot tubs along with offering a complete line of chemicals, components and equipment needed by pool and hot tub owners.
What sets Gritz Pools apart is the personal service they offer their customers. According to Pati Sweitzer, Marketing Manager at Gritz Pools, “Even for something as simple as chemicals, our staff will help them carry the products to their car and we know our customers by name.” She goes on to add, “This is one reason why our customers are always recommending us, personal service. We continue to be a family owned and operated business.”
Gritz Pools weathered the recession in 2009 by continuing to build quality pools and offer prompt, reliable service. Sweitzer states, “The recession brought luxury purchases down a lot but we feel they are coming back strong. We hung in there and our spa sales are up 70% this year alone!”
Listening to their customers’ requests has Gritz Pools looking to expand the service aspect of their business. “We get a lot of requests from customers to clean and maintain their pools and hot tubs,” says Sweitzer. “At present, with around 12 employees, we don’t have the staff to do it.” However, Mark’s daughter, Erica, would like to add this type of service and is in the planning stages of setting this up. “We just don’t want to jump in and not offer the service they [customers] know and have come to expect,” states Sweitzer. She adds that as they continue to increase sales, they are working to be able to give customers that ‘peace of mind’ maintenance option long after the sale.
Gritz Pools attended the Atlantic City Show held in January of this year to look for a line of hot tubs to add to their inventory. According to Sweitzer, “We liked the Nordic Story and the fact they are made in the USA,” says Sweitzer. She goes on to say, “We heard they were simple to operate and easy to maintain so we decided to bring them in. We’ll let you know more in a year!” Sweitzer indicates they are extremely pleased so far.
Sweitzer has this advice for other dealers, “Let customers know they are appreciated!” To do this, Gritz Pools has a large Customer Appreciation Event twice yearly. But, as Sweitzer says, “that isn’t the only way to show customers they are valued.” Sweitzer feels that customer appreciation is shown daily and in responding timely to customer requests. “Our pool business is very seasonal here, just a few months out of the year. So, when they need things done or fixed we try to respond ASAP!” states Sweitzer.
Contact Gritz Pools and the Gritz Sales Team through the website or find them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
A Nordic Impulse DP beautifully displayed by Gritz Pools.
Gritz Pools offers a full range of chemicals and equipment to maintain pools and hot tubs.
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