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60 Years of Friendships

Ultra Modern Pool & Patio celebrates its diamond birthday

Photography by Randy McKown

Rita Rowlen’s father, Cecil Schniepp, started Ultra Modern Pool & Patio in Wichita, Kan., in 1954. The World War II veteran started to gunite silos and dig basements, which led to swimming pools, and pool and spa retail. In 1986, Rowlen and her sister Linda Wallace purchased the retail portion of the business. Schniepp passed away in 2013. “One of the last things he said to me,” Rowlen says, “is I really want Ultra Modern to keep going.”

Celebrating 60 years in 2014, Rowlen says the relationships and friendships developed over the years have kept them, and her, in the business.

Through dealer trips, associations and industry events, Rowlen says she’s made wonderful friends all over the world. “The benefits of ownership, when it comes to a circle of friends, is phenomenal,” she says. “I’ve got several friends who, if I called them and said, ‘I’ve got to have your help,’ they’d get on a plane and be here tomorrow. That’s a powerful thing in this industry.”

Rowlen has built a team not only of colleagues in the industry, but also at her store. “I’m a strong believer in family, safety and a team, because that’s what holds you together when you’re in crisis,” Rowlen says. “We’re always there supporting each other no matter what.” And in 60 years, Rowlen and Ultra Modern Pool & Patio has had its share of business and personal crises to deal with, including a store fire, a warehouse destroyed by wind (which just reopened this fall) and multiple injuries and illnesses.

Her team of employees has more than 300 years of combined experience, which Rowlen says contributes to the company’s longevity. “You always have to build value into your products,” Rowlen says. “The value is that of the manufacturer, of the dealer and of the product — it’s not just one thing. You take one out of the equation, and you’re going to have a big issue.”

Ultra Modern has been celebrating all year with parties, events and sales for its customers.