Outdoor Living

Triple threat

Before 2008 there wasn’t a place to buy nice outdoor furniture in Chambersburg, Pa.

“Nowhere in our area sold anything quality,” says Kim Waytow, co-owner of Outdoor Living. “All they had to choose from was box stores.”

Kim and her husband Mike opened their outdoor furniture business in 2008. Not an easy time to start a new venture, but each year it has grown. Shortly after opening, they brought in hot tubs.

“It’s funny because we always wanted to open a hot tub store,” Kim says. They bought a hot tub after using one at a friend’s New Years Eve party. “We bought ours from a local guy. We told him, ‘If you ever want to sell your business, we’d be interested in buying it.’ ”

Unfortunately, when the owner sold — more than 15 years later — he had long forgotten about the Waytows’ interest. Nevertheless, the couple still thought that hot tubs would be a good addition to their outdoor furniture business. 

Kim worked in the store full time from the start, and Mike eventually quit his job to join her. Their son Weston also works at the store.

“The unfortunate part of it is your life revolves around the business, even in the off hours,” Mike says. “You’ll wake up and 3 a.m., wake up the other person and ask them if they did something.” 

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Kim says they do their best to compartmentalize the business and the rest of life, and that it helps that each handles different areas at work. 

“Mike is on service and deliveries all day, and I’m in the office,” she says. “We don’t really spend all day together. We’ll see each other from time to time, but we’re not under each other’s feet.”

The family knows each other’s strengths and can help out when someone gets stuck in a sales presentation. “There will be times on the weekend when all three of us are in here selling,” Mike says. “If we hear someone struggling with a customer because they don’t seem to be clicking, the other one will intervene — and all of a sudden we wind up with sale.”

Last winter during the slow season, they moved into a new building and renovated it. “It went down to four walls and a concrete floor,” Mike says, “and in three months’ time, we finished building.”

Unsung Heroes

Since the sum of Backyard Living’s employees is three family members, the Waytows’ joke is that the shop dog, a golden retriever named Deuce, should be named the company’s unsung hero. “We’ve got customers who come in just to see him,” Mike says. 

But Mike also says its Clearwater sales rep deserves recognition for all he does for them. “Sales reps usually tell you what you want to hear,” Mike says. “John Sloan is not afraid to get his hands dirty. If we’ve got a problem, he’ll come in and he’ll spend a day out in the field if he has to.”