Because a white picket fence looks idyllic, whether it’s surrounding a pool or a house. Because the wide-plank cedar decking complements the pool. Because it’s high-end enough to evade local subdivision codes barring many aboveground installations, but practical enough to save tens of thousands over ingrounds. Because it’s the perfect place to stretch out and watch the puffy Midwest clouds float by on a lazy summer afternoon. Because no mere inground pool could inhabit this rocky backyard. Because the cedar deck could almost have been milled right in this pool’s woodsy rural setting. Because from the deck’s vantage point you can almost see to the edge of the world.
Joan and Fran Struckhoff, owners of Prestige Pools, have been in the pool-building business since 1985. Their general manager, Mike Angelo, has been with them nearly every step of the way.
“I learned about the business as I went along and worked my way up,” Angelo says. “I started out cleaning pools, then went to servicing [equipment] and eventually worked my way to where I am now.”
One of most successful and eclectic pool companies in the St. Louis area, Prestige installs both inground and aboveground pools. It also sells ancillary products such as toys, chemicals and cleaners, and boasts a full-service division.
“We try to do it all and make things easy for our customers,” Angelo says.
In fact, Prestige just opened a second store in St. Charles, Mo., to better serve its customer base. It now has approximately 25 full-time employees year ’round and another 20 to 25 subcontractors during the busy season.
“We do a lot of work in that area,” Angelo says of the decision to open the second store. “It was [done] to help service the people out there. We wanted to make it more convenient for our customers.”
But the move also was designed to boost the company’s aboveground pool sales. “We thought [opening the new store] would help,” Angelo says. “People don’t want to travel very far when it comes to buying an aboveground pool. It’s not like when they’re buying an inground pool, where they might visit three or four builders. With an aboveground, there’s no reason for them to [drive] 40 minutes to compare other companies to us. They’re going buy from whoever is closer. So that’s one of the reasons we opened up there.”
Is the strategy working?
“So far it’s been a big success,” Angelo says. “Knock on wood.”
Wood is, in fact, one reason for Prestige’s success — wood decks, that is. The company has made a name for itself as a creator and installer of “upscale” aboveground pools, often partnering with California Custom Decks to complete projects.
Prestige discovered early on that there are customers who have the money to spend on an inground pool, but for a variety reasons can’t have one.
In the past, such customers have eschewed the aboveground alternative, saying the vessels didn’t live up to their aesthetic requirements. But Prestige soon figured out how to change all that: Install aboveground pools that look like ingrounds.
“We come out and look at the yard with one of our designers,” Angelo says. “We draw up the pool [design], accompanied by a suggestion of a deck. We often get into as much detail as we do with some of our inground pools. After all, the customer is investing as much as 10 to 20 grand with projects of this size.”
With the pool profiled here, located in Bellville, Ill., he says coming up with the design was easy because the customer already knew what he wanted. “We showed him drawings of what might look good,” Angelo says. “He was great to work with because he knew what he was looking for.”
The problem Prestige’s customers often face is that new subdivisions do not allow aboveground pools. “A lot of new subdivisions have a rule like that,” Angelo says. “But we have a design that can help make [an aboveground pool] look like an inground. And that was our goal here — to make it look just like an inground pool. That usually solves the problem.”
For the owner of this pool, the main problem was a prohibitive rocky backyard. “He had a lot of backyard and it was mostly flat and level,” Angelo explains, “but we could not do an inground because it was just so rocky.”
In the end, the customer wound up with a sharp-looking pool that cost him significantly less than an inground.
“With the deck, that pool cost around $15,000 to $16,000,” says Angelo. “That’s a lot for an aboveground, but he saved about $10,000 [compared with a inground pool].”
The pool’s white wooden fence provided a final elegant touch. “It’s a classy look that just offsets everything,” Angelo says. “He could have done a composite-type fence or an aluminum one, but he wouldn’t have gotten that custom look.”