Left to right: James Napodano, East Rochester store manager; Jim Ornce, sales and training manager; John Napodano, president/co-owner; Karen Blossom, Hilton retail manager; Conor Desmond, assistant store manager
Celebrating a 60-year legacy of backyard transformations
American Whirlpool, Softub, Vita Spas
Baquacil, O-Care, Pettis Spa Care, Poolife, Sirona Spa Care
Covana, SpaEase, UltraLift, VisionLift
Gazebo kits, patio furniture, saunas
When Larry and Erma Pettis founded Pettis Pools and Patio in 1962 in East Rochester, New York, they established a philosophy of providing quality products at a fair price and offering the best, most professional service in a timely manner. For 60 years, this has been their foundation for building lifelong customers and dedicated employees.
“It’s neat to be in this,” says John Napodano, president and co-owner of Pettis Pools, and manager of the in-ground pool division. “And we have good, long-term employees who appreciate it as well.” He adds that they are “just trying to carry the torch, and there is pride with that.”
Napodano has been with Pettis Pools for 36 years, mentored much of that time by Larry and Erma Pettis. He became president of the company in 1994, when Larry Pettis was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, which progressed quickly to the point where he could no longer perform his duties as president, Napodano says. Erma Pettis continued to be the matriarch of the business until her passing in 2012. Napodano strives to uphold the Pettises’ company values as a way to honor them.
Napodano was born and raised in Rochester, New York. His connection to the business began when he met the Pettises’ daughter, Julie Pettis, during college at a summer sales job. After college, Erma Pettis offered him a sales manager position. “She mentored me and gave me responsibility,” Napodano recalls. “I remember sitting with her and I said, ‘You know, I want to go get my MBA,’ and she said, ‘Save the $40,000 and stick with me.’ ”
Erma Pettis took Napodano with her to all kinds of business meetings. “I realize now what she was doing … she was teaching me the business,” he says. “I mean, she knew the industry.”
Julie Pettis is vice president and co-owner of Pettis Pools. She grew up under the mentorship of her mom and spent many years working in retail. In 2002, Julie also founded Softub Express, a division of Pettis Pools, which is now the second largest Softub distributor in the United States. “It’s an honor to carry on my family’s business and help so many wonderful families live a happier and healthier life safe at home,” Julie says.
As business partners, Napodano and Julie Pettis have not only been able to carry on Larry and Erma Pettis’ legacy, but they’ve also nurtured the family business into what it is today: two locations with multiple divisions and teams of experts.
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Napodano says he and Julie began building their teams and divisions from the start of their management roles. “It’s always based on personnel,” Napodano explains, referring to the growth of their divisions. “We started hiring good people who are still with us.” They first concentrated on the service division, and when that kept growing, they concentrated on the in-ground division. This pattern continued for each division they established.
“She’s very aggressive, doesn’t like sitting around,” Napodano says of Julie, recalling their early days of first working together before opening the second location in 1988. “If she was going to join the family business, she wanted to do something [new]. So she was a big advocate of opening a second location. I stayed at the main store; she went to the new store and we grew good people under us. And that’s how the second location started.” He says the growth continued under the constant support from Erma Pettis.
These days, Pettis Pools specializes in both pool construction and hot tub retail, two industry niches not often an equal focus within one business. Napodano says hot tubs had been more of a side offering but became a bigger portion of the business after they started selling at events, fairs and festivals. Over time, hot tubs and spas became another full-fledged division of the company. “I always thought of it as divisions of the business, running a business within the business,” Napodano explains. “All I can say is we had good people everywhere, strong enough people everywhere that we were able to grow each division.”
To celebrate the company’s 60th anniversary, Pettis Pools hosted 60 days of giveaways, with the last day’s prize being a hot tub. Julie also posted Throwback Thursday trivia questions to the business’s Facebook page. The questions covered topics related to her parents and business milestones over the years. Winners received gift certificates and storefronts also decked out in celebration.
Regarding the future of the business, Napodano focuses on helping employees grow to keep the business financially strong and sustainable. In doing that, he says, “It’s a stable future for us.”