Pettis Pools & Patio celebrated its 60th anniversary this year. One of its owners, John Napodano, attributes the company’s staying power to the hard work and dedication of its founders, Irma and Larry Pettis.
“Irma worked 24/7,” Napodano says. Larry and Irma had been schoolteachers who wanted to get into business. One day, perusing the classifieds, the couple saw an ad for Fox Pools in-ground pools. “For whatever reason,” Napodano says, “they thought they could [build pools] in upstate New York. There’s a lot of appreciation for all the hard work they did.”
The company built a strong retail presence, which included hot tubs, both SoftTub and acrylic, as well as well-received events. When the pandemic hit and events were no longer an option, Napodano prepared for the worst.
“I calculated a loss that year of just under $2 million,” he says. Which of course didn’t happen, because Napodano says people started knocking their doors down: “When people can’t travel, they put stuff in their homes.”
And while many have bemoaned manufacturers’ price increases, Napodano doesn’t quite see it that way.
“The increase in hot tub pricing is well overdue,” Napodano says, adding that customers have yet to complain about the higher prices. “We’ve been stagnant with pricing, so I think it adjusted properly.” Napodano says hot tub margins hadn’t been great pre-pandemic and that now, margins are up where they ought to be. “That’s not a bad thing,” he continues. “Wages went up; and people are reevaluating their own incomes and jobs; and a lot of money was thrown in the market. We are a luxury product, so I think we’ve got legs as an industry, as a category.”
Napodano expects Pettis to be around for many years to come, and the company is already looking to the future, keeping in mind how Irma handled things. “She supported all of us,” Napodano says. “She was fair and kept an eye on all of us as it relates to the future.”
After a succession-planning seminar at the 2019 Pool | Spa | Patio Expo in New Orleans, Pettis Pools developed a leadership committee. “We have some pretty good young talent that has entrepreneurial potential and interest,” Napodano says, but adds the company has many options when the time comes. “It’s very simple to me, quite honestly: Keep the business financially strong and sustain growth by concentrating on great employees and helping them grow. It’s a stable future for us.”
Photography by Jose Salazar