Creative Energy

California-based Creative Energy crafts customer relationships in a competitive landscape

Since its inception in 1976, Creative Energy has lived up to its name. Founded by innovators Denis Kasten and Rolf Englehard, this California-based venture began crafting hot tubs out of wine barrels, infusing creativity into the relaxation experience. 

The company name was solidified when Denis Kasten stepped out of a hot tub and said, “I feel like I have all this creative energy.”

Early on, the company’s journey was intertwined with the Watkins brothers’ hot tubs, marking the start of a longstanding partnership with Watkins Wellness. John Kasten, Denis’ brother, joined in 1981 to help run the business, eventually becoming the sole owner. John’s son, David Kasten, officially joined the company in 2002, following years of hands-on experience in the business, and now serves as the operations manager. 

Navigating the waters of a family business has its unique hurdles, particularly the dynamics and blurred lines between work and family life, David Kasten says. The challenges are immense, yet Kasten has met them with unwavering dedication.

“I never did look elsewhere,” he says. “Once I got in [the family business], I embraced it. I started out [helping] the parts assistant, then I learned some of the accounting. I learned from the bottom.”

Fast-forward to 2020, and the global pandemic posed new challenges and opportunities. With showrooms in San Rafael, Concord and San Mateo, Creative Energy closed its Pleasanton location, uncertain of what lay ahead. However, the team quickly realized demand was on the rise and jumped into action. 

“We started moving phones and computers to [the sales staffs’] homes,” Kasten recalls. “We said, ‘You don’t have to be in the showroom to sell. You can sell from home.’ And then we just started answering the emails, answering the phone calls, answering everything — and getting back in business.”

To meet evolving consumer needs, Creative Energy introduced an e-store and a text service, striving to make the hot tub buying process effortless for customers. 

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“We’ve tried to ease the way that customers communicate with us,” Kasten says. “If you don’t have a text service, you’re really missing the boat.”

In a competitive landscape like California, Creative Energy differentiates itself by delivering hot tubs personally and conducting meticulous site checks. Even at 87, John Kasten conducts most of these checks himself, ensuring successful deliveries in challenging terrains and tight spaces, often necessitating door widening or crane usage in one of the country’s most demanding delivery areas.

“We do [site checks] as a service because once you get into the customer’s backyard, you have a good relationship with them,” David Kasten says.

Their dedication extends to service, preferring in-house teams over outsourcing. By maintaining an extensive showroom space, they provide clients with ample room to explore and experience their range of products.

“I like having fewer locations but larger ones,” Kasten says. “I think that’s more appealing to a customer. If you’re making a $10,000-$25,000 investment in something, you’ll drive 20 minutes.” 

Creative Energy’s philosophy isn’t just about selling hot tubs; it’s about contributing to a holistic relaxation experience. The team plans to keep seizing the opportunities presented by the pandemic, particularly in the wellness sector. 

“COVID brought a lot of attention to our industry,” Kasten says. “People are [asking], ‘How do I make my house better? How do I get healthier?’ Hot tubs, cold plunges and saunas are all tying in.”