In 2010, Greg Hoover Jr. installed approximately 65 fiberglass pools in and around Charlotte, N.C., down from 80 the year before.
But a lack of consumer financing and constantly shrinking margins ultimately caught up with Hoover and his Midwest Fiberglass Pools & Spas. The Utica, Mich.-based company now is in the process of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
“We did a ton of pools,” said Hoover, owner of the firm that was spun off from Midwest Fiberglass Pool Distributors Inc., a Pool & Spa News Top Builder.
“But the banks weren’t loaning money to people for swimming pools,” he added. “So it became really tough. You had to search for the people who had cash, and it just got harder and harder to come by.”
About five years ago, Greg and his brother Scott purchased Midwest Fiberglass Pool Distributors from their father, Greg Sr.
The pair then split the company into two separate entities: Greg established Midwest Fiberglass Pools & Spas, while Scott created Midwest Pools Inc. in Grand Blanc, Mich. Their territories essentially were divided by Interstate 75, which runs down Michigan. In September 2008, Greg Jr. opened an office in Charlotte while still maintaining operations in Utica.
North Carolina is generally considered gunite and vinyl-liner country, said Gene Fouts, owner of Award Pools & Spas in Cleveland, N.C., about 50 miles north of Charlotte. And the state’s largest city was likely an attractive target due to a few key factors, such as an undervalued real estate market, according to Forbes magazine, and what Fouts described as the lack of a true fiberglass megabuilder.
Despite a productive couple of seasons — Midwest’s entrée into the market created a definite buzz, Fouts recalled — Hoover ultimately found himself underwater, left with little choice but to close shop. Still, Greg Jr. said he’s taken every step possible to ensure his clients aren’t left high and dry.
“We’ve been doing our best to make sure that none of the customers suffer,” he said. “Knowing that I still owe money to the bank and to some vendors just kills me. [There are] some really good people out there that I owe money to, and it’s unfortunate.
“But I didn’t want to get any deeper,” he continued, “and I didn’t want to take any money from customers as deposits and use that to finish jobs. I’ve heard about people doing that and it makes me sick. I couldn’t [use] people that way.”
Over the past few months, Scott and Greg Sr. have poured their own resources into the effort. Greg Sr. purchased a number of his son’s trucks and equipment, and dipped into his own funds to help.
Meanwhile, Scott finished a handful of the pools his brother had started in Michigan, and donated equipment and labor for new-pool and service customers. He’s also fielded calls from a few subcontractors and suppliers who didn’t realize the two companies were independent of one another.
“We tried to help a lot of those customers out because we didn’t want it to get too bad,” Scott said. “When you want to keep a good name, it’s worth it.
“And I really have no idea what happened in North Carolina,” he added. “Bad timing, maybe. But I do know that [Greg Jr.] has a good heart, and that he certainly didn’t mean for anything like this to happen.”