Family business cross-trains to success

Photography by Matthew Monarca

Fifty-two years. That’s how long Hallmark Spas, Pools & Billiards in Fayetteville, North Carolina, has been in business. Raymond and Renate Scholz started the company in the late ’60s, and the company is still family-run by their son, Mark Scholz. Scholz took over when his father died about six years ago, and his mother remains involved. Scholz’s wife, his sister and two children also work for Hallmark. Many employees have been with the company 30 or 40 years, Scholz says.

Hallmark opened before Hot Spring Spas existed and was one of the manufacturer’s first dealers. “We were just getting our feet wet with [Hot Spring] then,” Scholz says, “but we’ve been with them ever since. We’re very loyal to the company.”

Family Involvement

Growing up, Scholz worked for his parents during summers and part time while in school, learning the ropes from his father and other trusted team members. Once he graduated high school, he became a full-time employee; eventually, his parents made him part owner. “I was able to voice my opinion even though my parents still had the final word,” Scholz says of that time.

Scholz’s wife, Sheila, oversees operations on the retail side of the business. Yvonne, his sister, does bookkeeping for the company part time. Scholz’s children, Lauren and Zach, work part time while they pursue business degrees.

Zach developed and built most of Hallmark’s website. Additionally, both children work with Sheila managing online sales. They have also assisted with social media.

Scholz says he wants his children to pursue their passions, regardless of whether that means staying in the family business. “They both are very knowledgeable [about the store],” he says, “but they’re getting their education and seeing what’s out there. I want them to have that.”

Trained in Everything

Including the pool side of the business, Hallmark has approximately 30 employees during peak season from part-time and full-time workers to contractors. There are at least half a dozen sales staff on the showroom floor all year.

In a town centered around a military base, finding and keeping good employees is a constant challenge, Scholz says. He hires great employees, he says, but their families often get stationed elsewhere a couple of years later. As such, he trains employees in every aspect of the business so it’s easier to fill gaps if they arise. “It’s good to have that knowledge across the board,” he says. “Otherwise, people who work strictly in retail have no clue what’s going on in the field. They don’t know the service aspect or how to fix and repair. Everybody here has been on both sides of the fence. We don’t hire just one person to do one particular job.”

Keys to Success

Nearly 40 years ago, Raymond Scholz, who was also a general contractor, moved Hallmark from its original 4,000-square-foot store into a 7,000-square-foot location that he built. Seventeen years ago, the company moved into its current 22,000-square-foot location, consisting of a showroom and full warehouse. Scholz says he’s often been told to open multiple locations, but he feels it isn’t the right choice for Hallmark.

“There’s just too much out of your control [with multiple locations],” Scholz says. “Being there, making sure things get done right, is what put us where we are today.”

Hallmark added hot tubs, billiards and saunas years ago to provide additional revenue during the slow pool season, and being a seasonally driven business also complicates expansion. “It’s easier to maintain the business through the slow season with one location than with four or five,” he says.

Part of the reason Hallmark doesn’t offer swim spas is that Scholz will only expand when the company is ready. “Every market is different,” he says. “If I get more interest, I would jump on that boat. I’ve got to see how I’m going to tear walls out and make room on the floor.” Scholz is grateful for a successful business but says he views being able to work with family as an even greater accomplishment. “It was in my father’s blood; it’s in my blood,” he says. “I’m going to keep doing this until I can’t.”

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