Sometimes, expanding the retail business doesn't center on making more money. An acquisition opportunity may present itself at the ideal time. Or a business owner may want to provide more job opportunities for family members. Both reasons were behind Valley Pools & Spas adding stores. It wasn’t in the master plan, but when opportunities arose, Larry Berczyk jumped at the chance.
Berczyk’s goal went beyond creating new revenue streams for the firm. “We have a lot of family working here, so it was important to us to be able to build the business big enough to support the whole family,” Berczyk says. “I think that was an underlying motivation.”
More than 10 family members work at the company, which was started by Berczyk’s parents in 1974 and now is owned by him and two sisters.
The original location, in Burnsville, Minn., acts as the corporate office, housing accounting and business operations. When the chance came to buy an existing pool specialty store on the north side of the Twin Cities area, Berczyk added the Andover store to the roster.
“They were existing pool and spa locations and already had clientele set up,” he says. “I think it did make it easier because we had some experienced people in place that we could hire. ... It was just a matter of switching everything over and getting the people trained to operate [our] way instead of the way they were used to operating.”
But with that also came challenges. The Andover store, purchased in 1999, needed to be added to the Burnsville store’s computer system and employees needed training to use it.
Under the previous ownership, the new stores had carried different product, which needed to change, but not too abruptly.
“We tried right away to make the Andover store the same as the Burnsville store,” Berczyk says. “It took us a couple of years to realize that wasn’t necessarily a good idea — for us, anyhow.”
And while his customers all remained loyal to the business, Berczyk found that about 20 percent of his Burnsville clientele started shopping at the Andover location, which led to staffing and inventory changes to accommodate the shift.
The third location, purchased in 2002 and located north of the Twin Cities in Brainerd, Minn., has a lot in common with the Burnsville stores. The product under the former owner was the same as the corporate location, and the clientele of the two stores is very similar.
But what really makes the store work despite its more-than-140-mile distance from headquarters is that Berczyk’s father and cousin were willing to manage it. “I think had it not been for family members willing to move up there and spend the majority of their time up there, we wouldn’t have done it,” he adds.