Gregory Butler owner Bubba’s Tubs & Pools Mount Pearl, Newfoundland
One evening as Gregory Butler contemplated his life, he thought, “I just wish I was in a hot tub somewhere.” That passing thought became the catalyst to opening a hot tub business — in fact, the next day he visited the only other local hot tub store and started his business plan.
Butler was working on his master’s degree at the time and had a job in the pharmaceutical industry. It took two years before he was able to leave his pharma job and open his hot tub store in 2003.
Though Butler has won numerous awards from Hydropool Hot Tubs, doing business in Newfoundland isn’t easy. “We’re at the end of the road,” he says. It takes five to six hours to ride the ferry to get there, so shipping costs are higher. “If the weather is bad the ferries don’t run, taxes are higher, cost of living is higher.”
Bubba’s Tubs has experienced an uptick like the rest of the hot tub industry this year. “Because we’re on an island and because of [coronavirus] travel interruptions, all the people who used to fly to Florida every year to get away from the weather are buying hot tubs,” Butler says. “It’s been positive for us right now.”
Steve Ruscigno vice president and general manager Oregon Hot Tub six locations in the Portland, Oregon metro
In 2001, Steve Ruscigno found himself unemployed with a newborn and a 4-year-old. Based on his operations experience in the Navy and in warehouse and distribution operations, he answered an Oregon Hot Tub newspaper ad for a warehouse manager. They instead hired him to be the company’s general sales manager under the tenure of original owner Wilfried Mueller-Crispin, a pioneer in the portable hot tub industry. Ruscigno identified opportunities on the operations side, so he and Mueller-Crispin traveled to Seattle to observe Olympic Hot Tub. There, he met and befriended Sue Rogers. “Sue and I became fast friends and worked together as colleagues for the next seven years,” Ruscigno says. In 2008, Rogers bought Oregon Hot Tub. “Since then, I have had the privilege to work for and side-by-side with someone I consider the most brilliant business mind, not only in the industry but in business in general. Together we have taken OHT to new heights in spite of some very big challenges.”
In 2019, Leslie’s Poolmart bought Oregon Hot Tub. Both Ruscigno and Rogers remain involved in the business, with Ruscigno running the day-to-day operations of the company’s retail stores as well as AllSpa, its separate service arm. “My most precious accomplishment in my tenure has got to be the development of people,” Ruscigno says. “We have built an incredible team, and I have most enjoyed playing a part in some of their personal success stories.”
Breanna Tippie manager Blue Lagoon Pool and Spa Cedar Rapids and Coralville, Iowa
Breanna Tippie began her career at her father Jeff Frink’s business, Blue Lagoon Pool and Spa, in 2015. Jeffrey Frink opened Blue Lagoon in 2011. Tippie enjoys technical aspects of industry. “I thoroughly enjoy diving deep into the specifics of water chemistry and am very happy when customers want to understand the ‘why’ to adding products,” Tippie says. “I also enjoy looking up exploded parts diagrams and searching for hard-to-find parts.” But it’s the relationships that have kept her in the industry, with both her coworkers and customers. “We have a great customer base and personal connections with a lot of the people we see on a regular basis,” she says. “The best part is that I know the products we carry are what I would recommend to a friend or family member. Our greatest strength is that we truly care about our customers and want nothing but the best for them, and it shows in our day-to-day operations.”
Kathi Belcourt took a summer job at Aqua-Tech in 1994. She was studying forensic science in college, but when it came time to go back to school that fall, she decided to take night classes and continue working at Aqua-Tech during the day.
“I ended up creating my own job because we were a small store at the time [and] whenever anything needed done, I never said no,” Belcourt says. So if it meant dusting, selling a pool liner or testing someone’s hot tub water, she did it.
When she did finish her degree, she realized she valued enjoying her job over having a fancy title and decided to stay on with Aqua-Tech. “I would have been such an unhappy person,” she says, but now, “I sell fun.”
Christian Staples owner Arctic Spas Utah Salt Lake City
Christian Staples serviced hot tubs in high school. In fact, his mom had to file for his first business license since he wasn’t yet 18. In 1995 his father encouraged him to open a retail location in a well-known building in Park City, Utah. In 1999, he opened a location in Salt Lake City, eventually closing the Park City store. Staples is consistently one of the top Arctic Spas dealers worldwide.