In April, the hot tub industry lost two-longstanding members, including Rich Werber
Born December 21, 1950, Rich Werber died April 7 after a brief battle with lung cancer. He and his wife, Eileen, ran Great Atlantic Hot Tubs, Pools & Saunas with three locations in the Virginia Beach, Virginia, area and one in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, for 43 years. Werber served as president of the National Pool and Spa Institute (now PHTA) and was a founding member of The Gemini Effect, a business group for Hot Spring dealers. Werber was also among the retailers who launched Pools.com, one of the first online pool and spa retail stores.
Joe Mahoney, owner of Capital Hot Tubs in the Washington, D.C., metro area, met Werber shortly after Mahoney and his college roommate started their hot tub business. In addition to his retail business, Werber also ran a distribution business at the time.
“He took us out to our first business dinner,” Mahoney says. “He took some of us under his wing.” When Mahoney and his partner split, Werber helped Mahoney get his new company going.
Since Werber’s company was near a military base, he often hired military spouses, who would go on to work in other hot tub stores when they moved to a new duty station. “I’ve got a couple of his former employees who work for us to this day,” Mahoney says. “He was always looking at the next big thing. When I was trying to sell one hot tub, he was trying to sell 100.”
Brian Quint, president of Aqua Quip in Seattle, partnered with Werber and others for Pools.com, which eventually sold to BioLab.
“Really [it was] working in the NSPI and our calling to serve in the broader, higher level that got us together,” Quint says.
Mahoney says one of Werber’s lasting impacts, both on Mahoney and the hot tub industry as a whole, was showing that hot tubs could be a viable, standalone business. “He was one of the first who was really retailing hot tubs, and his store just had hot tubs,” Mahoney says. “He’s going to be missed by a lot of people.”