Brian Quint in approximately 2008
Brian Quint in approximately 2008

Aqua Quip, the renowned Seattle-area retail, service and construction operation owned by three past APSP chairmen, has been acquired by national retail juggernaut Leslie’s Poolmart.

“I’m pretty energized about the opportunity to think creatively, have resources and take a thoughtful, strategic approach to what we have and what we are doing,” said Aqua Quip President and co-owner Brian Quint.

The purchase took effect last Thursday.

“We are delighted to partner with Brian Quint, an accomplished industry veteran, and are thrilled to welcome the remarkable associates and leadership team of Aqua Quip to the Leslie’s organization,” said Steven Ortega, Leslie's President and Chief Executive Officer. “... We look forward to engaging more pool and spa customers through the combined platform of delivering best-in-class service and value for our customers in the Seattle and Pacific Northwest Washington markets.”

With its nine locations, Aqua Quip will function as a wholly owned subsidiary of Leslie’s and will retain its name and branding.

The move was seen by Aqua Quip owners Quint, Kathleen Carlson and Erik Carlson as a way to set up the company for the future, and to provide the Carlsons with an exit strategy. Quint now will serve as Leslie’s senior vice president, reporting directly to President/CEO Steven Ortega. Erik Carlson will remain on as vice president of operations. Former Marketing Director Kathleen Carlson retired in 2017. Quint’s mother Esther also owned part of the company.

Leslie’s expects to keep the remainder of the existing Aqua Quip staff in place.

“We’re really following Brian’s team and his lead,” said Tracy Dick, Leslie’s vice president of marketing and advertising.

Added Quint: “[Ortega] wanted the entire business – the organization, people and culture. [Leslie’s] wanted to do everything possible to continue whatever made us successful and attractive and to keep doing those activities in the same manner.”

According to Quint, Leslie’s initiated conversations about an acquisition last summer. Initially, he believed the chances of selling were remote. “But it was something that I needed to be willing to think creatively about, because the world is changing rapidly, and I owe my organization the ability to stay relevant,” he said.

Within a couple weeks, he said, they began performing due diligence. “[Leslie’s proposition] was compelling, because it ensured continuity for my business and team,” Quint said. “And it was a fun and disruptive idea that was appealing to me.”

“We’re excited to benefit from the tailwinds that the Leslie’s organization brings to us to grow the business in a manner that the Carlsons and I probably would not grow the business.”

This transaction marks a watershed not only for independent retailer Aqua Quip, but also for Leslie’s: This is the national company’s first brick-and-mortar entrance into the Pacific Northwest. The company has targeted this region for more growth, and shepherding that expansion will comprise a significant part of Quint’s job, in addition to running the Aqua Quip locations.

This also continues a new growth strategy that Leslie’s began in early 2018 with the purchase of Pittsburgh-area Valley Pool & Spa, a 50-year-old operation with five locations. While it has acquired other existing brick and mortar retailers, operations historically were integrated into the Leslie’s brand. But the Valley and Aqua Quip purchases have put Leslie’s in new regions and exposed them to sales in new product categories, the most significant being hot tubs. Because of this, Leslie’s chose to leverage Aqua Quip’s and Valley’s brand equity in these regions and categories. This strategy will also help the company gain footage in so-called snow-belt states, where year-round sales need to include hot tubs, hearths and other similar products, Quint said.

Aqua Quip also is the first Leslie’s-owned operation to include construction, however Leslie’s doesn’t plan to actively pursue that segment throughout the rest of its locations.

The Washington operation will keep its current product and vendor mix. “I hope that in the eyes of the consumer [the change] is invisible and that we’re just going to get better because of the resources we have access to,” Quint said.

As a result of the transaction, Aqua Quip, which was a long-time Carecraft member, has left the buying group.

Aqua Quip was founded in the Seattle area by Quint’s parents, Richard and Esther Quint, in 1959. Brian Quint became president in 1993. In 1999, Quint and the Carlsons merged their companies – Aqua Quip and Carlson Pool & Spa, which was based in Tacoma, Wash.

With this acquisition, Leslie’s now has a presence in 37 states.

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