California Pools has gone bicoastal.
Effective Feb. 1, the West Covina, Calif.-based builder will officially have a licensee, or “dealer,” operating in Orlando, Fla.
“We are thrilled that we have not only received such positive response to our expansion plans, but to be entering the Florida market tells us that many of the harder-hit regions are on a comeback and that there are people out there eager to align themselves with solid companies with the backing and resources to take them to the next level,” said Steve Terry, vice president, licensee development.
Though company officials had earlier stated that the firm wouldn’t extend across the country so soon, its focus shifted after being approached by industry veteran and former California Pools employee Shane McLemore.
“We weren’t campaigning to be in Florida because we are trying to keep the reins in so we don’t go out of control,” Terry said. “But we had a prior relationship with Shane, so we felt comfortable.”
After studying the market, McLemore had noticed a lack of major builders with solid brands in the region, so he seized the opportunity to open a licensee operation with a name and corporate identity.
“Everyone I’ve spoken to has had a positive comment about the California Pools brand being in this market,” McLemore said.
McLemore, who at one time was California Pools’ director of operations for commercial and residential construction in Palm Springs, hopes to capitalize on the home-building activity in central Florida.
“Our goal is to be a production-minded pool company and try to do 100 pools in our first two years,” he said.
He does not yet have any jobs lined up, but feels confident that the three months of campaigning which the company did in preparation for the grand opening soon will begin to pay off.
“I’m anticipating a very good spring,” he said.
Initially, California Pools’ East Coast office will operate as a mobile company, but McLemore expects to open a brick-and-mortar operation in the next 18 to 24 months.
However, not all builders have the same forecast for the coming season. Though the area’s home values are rebounding and the market is starting to turn, some suggest it will be a difficult sell for California Pools, primarily because the down economy forced many builders to close their doors, making homeowners skeptical of lesser-known companies.
“It will be a tough push to come in and survive,” said Ken Gregory, president of Evolution Pools in Orlando and chairman of the Florida Swimming Pool Technical Advisory Committee, a Florida Building Commission group. “It can be done, but it’s not going to be a cake walk.”
Nevertheless, Gregory welcomes them with open arms. “The more the merrier,” he said. “The water is fine.”
Despite an uncertain future in Florida, California Pools is planning a strategy to increase its opportunities in the region later in 2013, now that it has an East Coast presence. In fact, the firm is exploring expansion into Georgia and already is in talks with McLemore to open a second location in Florida, in either Sarasota or St. Augustine.
“Once you have a base camp in a certain area, it opens us up to other options,” Terry said. “With this, we’ve decided we would put our arms around the Sunbelt. But we’re taking it one step at a time.”
As progress unfolds in Florida, California Pools also is celebrating the opening of its first licensee office in Salt Lake City, as well as a second dealer in Austin, Texas, which is anticipated to open in March.
Founded in 1952 by Wayne Steimle, the family-owned firm is composed of 17 independently owned agencies throughout Southern California and one corporate-owned office. Additionally, there are eight licensees in Arizona, California, Florida, Texas, and Utah.