“My most unfavorite saying is ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’” Dick Gross said. “I’m always trying to think of ways to improve things.”

Indeed, his inventive mind helped him evolve from a service professional to a manufacturer of products meant to make technicians’ lives easier. After a stint in building maintenance, Gross settled into the pool industry for a lifelong career. He started his own business, Purity Pool Service in Redding, Calif., in 1961.

Dick Gross pilots a catamaran in Hawaii.
Dick Gross pilots a catamaran in Hawaii.

He soon realized that some of the tools available at the time weren’t as efficient as he would’ve liked. So he came up with modifications for the tools he was using, as well as new ones. By 1973, “Service” was dropped from the company name, though it still employed some working maintenance techs at the time. But the firm’s main focus shifted to products, specifically his inventions and product modifications.

Gross’ first industry invention was a segmented vacuum that he made for the Loyola University pool. It was 4 feet long and made it possible for him to clean that pool in half an hour. Though the product didn’t take off, Gross wasn’t discouraged. He next developed the Non-Clog Skimmer Ball, meant to keep larger debris from entering a pool suction line, which the firm still sells.

Not surprisingly, the former service tech also was interested in finding ways to improve the design of pool scoops and rakes. For example, in 1971 he introduced a pool net with a turned edge for scooping. And so it goes.

“I’m thinking all the time,” Gross said. “I’m working on two or three things right now, but I can’t talk about them yet. I did just finish a trio of rakes — you can slide nets on them.”

Currently, he’s president/principal designer at his family firm, but some management changes are in the works. One son, Rich, who started with his father at age 15 and helped design tools, is set to transition from vice president to president in the next six months. Wife Julie will move from operations manager to business manager, and daughter Kate will take over Julie’s previous job.

So what does the company founder like to do in his leisure time? Dick Gross said he’s a Scrabble aficionado and enjoys boating. He also likes to “fix things that aren’t broken,” and test products in his own backyard pool.