Imagine Backyard Living

David Ghiz wants to elevate the hot tub shopping experience

David Ghiz had made his mark on the pool and spa industry. His family founded and ran Paddock Pools, a legacy builder in the Phoenix metro, which at one time had more than $100 million in annual revenue until 2005, when they sold it to an investment firm. In the years following the sale, Paddock ran into trouble, and Ghiz attempted to buy it back. The deal fell through, but during the process, Ghiz got back in touch with some of his old vendors, including Jacuzzi Hot Tubs. 

“[Jacuzzi] was always really important to us, and I always loved that business,” Ghiz says. He had a clear vision for how he wanted to handle the hot tub side of the business within Paddock, and when that didn’t happen he decided to do it anyway, focusing strictly on hot tubs and backyard living products — not swimming pools. It was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. 

“It’s about having a chance to build something that can grow and help this industry get back to where it needs to be,” Ghiz says. He sees a void in the high-end shopping experience to match the high-end price tag and value of a hot tub. 

“[Consumers] go to these grungy spa stores in strip malls and warehouses,” Ghiz says. “It just doesn’t connect with the ownership value of a hot tub…. A hot tub is a life changer, both for physical and mental health. There aren’t a lot of other items you can say that about.”

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Ghiz has developed a showroom and processes to give customers a luxury experience from the moment they arrive. It’s an idea he hopes will work just as well in Texas and North Dakota as it does in Arizona. Ghiz says he never would have tried this new venture without Jacuzzi hot tubs and his core employees. 

“I had to have these people,” he says, “and it was a really important part of making the decision to do this — to be sure they were committed to me. And they all were.”

Unsung Hero

Ghiz brought in three people from his past business: Sean Nolen, CFO of Backyard Living; Nancy Duffy, showroom manager/ownership experience director; and salesman John Amato. Nolen worked with Ghiz at Paddock as the company transitioned ownership from his family to the private equity firm. He was also involved in Ghiz’s attempt to buy the company back. Duffy ran the customer experience department at Paddock, at one time having about 30 people working under her. She started at Imagine as the showroom manager, but her duties quickly shifted to ownership experience director. “In my career, I have never seen anybody who was able to create an exceptional experience for a customer like Nancy,” Ghiz says. “One of the key sales guys here is John Amato,” Ghiz says. “He was with me at Paddock for almost 20 years. Ghiz says Amato knows the business; knows hot tubs; and knows its brands, Sundance and Jacuzzi, inside and out. And though Imagine Backyard Living isn’t a family business like Paddock was, Ghiz says it’s family that still makes it work. His wife, Melanie, helps out when needed, and Ghiz has partnered with his cousin, Buddy Andrews, who owns a large pool-service company called Blue Water Pool Chemical Service. In addition to providing warehouse space at their facility, Blue Water also helps service Ghiz’s customers’ pools.