In May 2021 when Ryan Landwehr left Watkins Wellness, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of hot tubs and aquatic fitness products, there was no game plan for what would come next.
“It was the best thing I ever did in my life and career,” he recalls. “I wanted more time with my kids who were at that sweet spot of growing up, and at the same time, just to take a breath for a second. I had no plan.”
However, after 15 months of what he describes as Waffle Wednesdays, French Toast Fridays and some decent sleep, Landwehr emerged from his hiatus as the new owner of A&B Accessories in West Fork, Arkansas.
“It’s been a little bit like drinking from a fire hose for sure,” he says, “but very exciting times, and [I’m] looking forward to the future.”
A&B Accessories has been in business for more than 30 years, creating custom spa accessories for clients all over the world.
John Olson, then owner of A&B Accessories, contacted Landwehr shortly after he left Watkins. The two had already worked together on a product line for Endless Pools, a pioneer in the development and marketing of swim spas and aquatic fitness products. Watkins Wellness acquired Endless Pools in 2015. “John became a great vendor partner for Watkins after the acquisition,” Landwehr explains. “John was filling a niche that [Watkins] had zero interest in trying to fill. We needed somebody quick to solve that, and John had great products.” Landwehr says they forged a good relationship, one that would lay the foundation for Olson’s candid phone call.
“I knew that he would have the same compassion and empathy for our customers as I do,” Olson says. “He was the perfect guy to take over.”
Olson relayed his retirement plans and offered to sell the company to Landwehr.
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“I just wasn’t ready to make that decision,” Landwehr recalls, “and I’m gonna tell you, that man has patience.” After nearly a year of biquarterly follow-ups from Olson, Landwehr pulled the trigger and on September 1 of this year officially became the owner of A&B Accessories.
Yevette Robinson, office manager for A&B Accessories, says the ownership transition has gone smoothly, with only technology-related hiccups here and there.
I knew that he would have the same compassion and empathy for our customers as I do. He was the perfect guy to take over.”
John Olson, Former owner, A&B Accessories
“Obviously, there are several longtime customers who are disappointed to see John leave, but many also know or are already familiar with Ryan,” Robinson says. “It seems like that has eased our customers’ side of the transition, since he is already familiar with their products.” Robinson says she’s looking forward to working with Landwehr and implementing his vision for the company.
Landwehr got his start in the pool and spa industry as a 15-year-old, cutting his teeth on commercial pool maintenance and construction.
“Talk about a lifer, right?” Landwehr says. He adds those early experiences allowed him to gain many mechanical skills that have been useful in this new role. Drawing from his experience in both pool and hot tub retail, Landwehr says he’s been putting new and old skills alike to good use. His first day, he says, was spent re-networking computers: “It’s like, ‘You know what? I’m gonna have to dig out those skills,’ ” he says, “and you really become kind of a jack of all trades to some degree.”
Besides continuing to build rapport with customers, Landwehr says building trust and camaraderie with his new team is a priority as well: “I made that very clear to the team on day one. I said, ‘Because of the way John spoke about you, you have my trust. It’s not that way with me, and I get that I have to earn it,’ ” he says. “ ‘And I expect to do that over time. Not tomorrow, not next week, but over time, let me earn your trust.’ And so far, I think we’re on the right track.”