After several sports and work related injuries, Jeremy Graham suffered from debilitating chronic back pain. “I used to see the chiropractor sometimes two to three times a week,” Graham says. “I was in physiotherapy for years, and spent thousands and thousands of dollars on orthotic shoes.” He started using a hot tub when his back was giving him trouble, and now when he does it clicks right back into place.
Graham worked in his family’s equipment rental business with his parents and brother, and when the brothers decided to start their own business, Graham investigated several options including hot tubs. A dealership was for sale in the desirable Okanogan Valley in British Columbia, where he and his young family vacationed every summer, and while looking into purchasing it, Graham studied the industry. If he was going to get into the hot tub business, he decided, he wanted to be a Jacuzzi dealer.
“There was a dealer here in Vernon that needed to move back to Texas, so an opportunity became available for us to start a dealership from scratch,” Graham says. They took over the location and Jacuzzi area but didn’t purchase any of the other assets. “We jumped on that opportunity and haven’t looked back.”
There were immediate challenges for the new business, which he named Premium Pool and Spa. The previous dealer left behind a trail of unhappy customers whom Graham needed to win back. It was October 2009 — not the most desirable economic time to start a business. But in both cases, Graham was uniquely suited to address those issues.
In the rental industry, he says, his dad taught him that a problem with a customer is your time to win that customer. In short order, he proved he was going to do the right thing. “At first I had this huge headache to deal with,” he says, “but it turned out to be blessing. What you get out of it is a very loyal customer.”
And since Graham knew from experience that a hot tub can be a necessity, not a luxury, he made that the philosophy behind the business, which he says helped shield them from the downturn.
In 2012, he partnered with a dealership in Kelowna, a market he intended to expand into. When the partnership didn’t work out, he became sole owner of both locations. In the meantime, Premium had grown out of the 2,200-square-foot Vernon location. Graham found a location to buy, and began the long process of purchasing and renovating it.
As he finishes the new Vernon store and looks to open more stores, Graham has adapted a philosophy he believes began with the Hard Rock Café.
“They are a franchise, and they have to do the same things [in each location],” Graham says “They are also mandated that they have to do something abstract, to create something memorable. Every time a customer comes in the store, we have to make them smile or laugh. It’s just a goofy, fun atmosphere. That creates an environment people want to be part of and want to come back to.”