Photography by Richard Yerkes
Dan Henry started off selling hot tubs on the weekend, helping a buddy at home shows and other events. During that time, he familiarized himself with hot tubs and Master Spas.
“When [Master Spas] launched the [Michael Phelps] swim spas, I thought that was key,” Henry says. “They were innovating and aggressively trying to adapt and come up with new product lines and features. It’s the kind of manufacturer I wanted to associate with.”
When the recession hit, Henry jumped on a vacant Master Spas territory, leaving his job in the family business — running printing plants — behind and opening East Coast Spas in 2009. He started off lean, working out of a warehouse for the first couple years and doing most of the work himself. He’s grown double digits each year he’s been open, and in 2012 moved in to a true retail showroom.
Though his overhead has increased since those early years, Henry says he’s put the company in a position to succeed in the event of another economic downturn.
“We’re doing a good amount of service, selling a good number of covers and doing a lot of chemical sales,” Henry says. Going back to his home-show roots, Henry is prolific in events and marketing. “If things really slowed down, I could be less aggressive and weather the storm just on the base that we built,” he says.
Master Spas’ approach to swim spas was essential to getting Henry in the hot tub business, and he’s made the exercise systems an important part of his store. “The consumer has to know they can see swim spas here,” Henry says, so he has multiple models on the floor. “We’ll have people drive five hours to come to the showroom.”
He says customers instantly understand the benefits of swims spas. “Everybody hits a point where they could’ve been a marathon runner or world-class track athlete,” he says, “but at some point you can’t run any more; your body breaks down. The water is your best option.”
As East Coast Spas has grown, Henry has added employees, many from outside the industry.
People get too hung up on finding people with hot tub industry experience, he says, but “hot tubs are not that complicated. What’s hard is to be good with people — and you can’t teach that; you either are or you aren’t. You can learn about jet counts and ozonators. It takes a few months, and you’re up and running.”
Team chemistry is also vital, Henry says, especially when there are only a handful of employees. The right mix means he isn’t micromanaging. “I just instruct them to take care of the customer first and keep me in the loop,” he says. “I have people who know what needs to be done, how to do it and are great at it.”