While Baystate Pool Supplies Inc. prepares for the upcoming swim season, the Cambridge, Mass.-based distributor will be entering the first summer without its two founding fathers: Arthur and Paul Arakelian.
Arthur, 80, and Paul, 85, passed away within three weeks of each another last July after serving the industry for more than 45 years. But their legacy lives on at Baystate, where they helped grow the company from a local outlet to one of the largest distributors on the East Coast.
“We still have customers who buy here because of the things they may have done over the years,” said John Arakelian, Arthur’s son, who now runs the company with his cousin, Chuck.
In 1960, while working for his father’s company, United Bleach Manufacturing, Paul saw an opportunity in the burgeoning pool and spa industry. Later that year, he formed Baystate Chemical and Pool Supplies. Arthur joined him shortly thereafter, leaving his job as a schoolteacher.
Operating as a chemical manufacturer, wholesaler and retail outlet, the Arakelian brothers had to wear many hats to make the business work.
“My father was more the sales and Paul was more the inside [operations], but they basically did everything, even driving and loading the trucks,” John said.
Paul’s son, Chuck, joined the firm full-time in 1976; John followed suit in 1980. Above all, the founding brothers demonstrated a strong work ethic, John said.
“Just going to work and working all day — that was their legacy,” he said. “They’d be in the place at 4:00 in morning.”
Baystate eventually consolidated the business into wholesale distribution, and John and Chuck were charged with assuming leadership. John’s brother, David, also joined the company and now oversees purchasing. Still, Arthur and Paul remained involved in all major company decisions. Though Paul was later unable to work because of deteriorating health, Arthur came to work every day until he passed away on July 12, 2008. Paul died 19 days later on July 31.
John and Chuck are still using their fathers’ principles of hard work and devoted customer service to train the future leaders at Baystate.
“We’re constantly preaching those rules to our employees: Just make the customer happy,” John noted. “You cannot buy relationships; you have to earn them.”
Today, Baystate has 10 locations and 250 employees.