Atlas Spas and Swim Spas | A Rebrand and Revved Up Growth
Our Retail Stars hurtled through 2023 reinvigorated
Selling hot tubs was the natural next step for the Downs family, whose business started as a construction company building storage facilities before moving on to decks, fences, patio covers and similar projects.
Atlas Building Systems, the parent company to Atlas Spas and Swim Spas, was founded in 1981 by William F. Downs, Sr., or Bill, and William F. Downs, Jr., or William. Though they started selling spas earlier, it wasn’t until they connected with Tim Blake that hot tubs became a big part of their business.
Blake had recently moved to Texas, and in 2011, William called to see if Blake could help them sell at the Texas State Fair.
“ ‘I would be interested in running that for you,’” Blake recalls telling William. “ ‘But the problem is, I only sell Master Spas.’ ”
At the time, Atlas Spas and Swim Spas was selling other brands, but William agreed to bring in a few Master Spas products for the event. “By the end of the fair, the majority of everything that we sold was the Master Spas products,” Blake says. That was convincing enough for William, who not only became an exclusive Master Spas dealer but hired Blake full-time.
“We’ve had a great partnership,” Blake says. “William Downs runs a very good operation, and I’m glad to be part of the family.”
As the hot tub business grew, the need for rebranding became apparent.
“In 2016, we wanted to reach that customer base better,” says William F. Downs III, Willie, who acts as the company’s director of marketing and communications. “One of the big things we decided to do is to break the company into two brands.”
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Instead of lumping everything under Atlas Buildings, Pools and Spas, the business became Atlas Backyard Sheds and Atlas Spas and Swim Spas.
“For the most part, they’re two separate groups of customers; two different demographics,” Willie says, adding there is some overlap in customers who buy a hot tub and also contract with them to build a deck or other project.
“That’s one of the things that makes us a little unique,” Blake says. “We can come in and give suggestions for everything [customers] would like to do in the backyard. So instead of dealing with multiple contractors, they can deal with just our company.”
For its part, Atlas Spas and Swim Spas has three showrooms — one in Plano, a new 16,000-square-foot showroom in Tyler and, in the week before this SpaRetailer interview, a new showroom in Waco. Atlas recently took over the Master Spas territories in West Texas and Austin, which will spread it across a big swathe of the second-largest state. While Atlas Backyard Sheds doesn’t display spas, it does carry chemicals and accessories at its seven locations.
“We cover a very large area between where our store locations are and where we do events,” Blake says. “We try to make it easier for customers to get supplies.”
Like most kids with small-business owners as parents, Willie grew up in and around the business, pitching in where it made sense. “I say ‘help’ very loosely,” he says. He’s dabbled in other careers but 12 years ago, made his way back to Atlas full-time.
“It’s a real honor to be able to work alongside a parent,” Willie says. Though Bill Sr. died a few years ago, William Jr., Willie’s brothers — Cameron Cooper and Robert Downs — as well as his brother-in-law — Alex Broyles — are involved in the company.
“Being able to work with family and feel like you’re making a difference in some way,” Willie says, “it’s a good feeling.”