It was a birthday to remember. First, there was a big party for Joe Secard at a restaurant last month, complete with belly dancer, and then a gift of an Ensenada, Mexico cruise with five of his close friends.

After all, it isn’t every day you reach your 80th birthday.

Secard is following it up this year with another milestone — 55 years in the industry. It’s been quite a ride for the president/ founder of Secard Pools & Spas, a Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.-based retailer with 10 locations.

Hailing from upstate New York, Secard became a machinist after high school, working at Douglas Aircraft and various machine shops. He went to California on his honeymoon and liked it so much, he moved there. He and wife Mary Ann now call West Covina home and have a summer beach house in San Clemente.

Secard’s interest in pools grew from his experience getting an aboveground model for his backyard in the ’50s. “Doughboys were a new, hot item then, and only available at Sears,” he recalled. When his neighbor saw it and wanted one, Secard bought another and sold it for a profit. Something clicked, and an obsession with pools was born.

In 1958, he founded Secard Pools & Spas. His parents and other relatives joined him on the West Coast in the ’60s. “I gave them jobs. By 1962, I had six stores,” he explained. His crews install aboveground and inground pools, and the stores sell spas, accessories, billiard tables and more. Also under his banner is Splash-A-Round-Pools, a softsided pool maker.

He’s scaled back on his workload and currently puts in half-days at the flagship store. He plans to turn the business over someday to his children — son Eddie, vice president; daughter Jodi, CFO; and her husband, Shad Kidder, general manager.

As Joe Secard discusses the industry, it’s easy to see why he’s stayed with it for more than five decades. “I love everything and everyone,” he said. He paused, then shared a story. “I’ve asked 40 kids this question, and only two have answered it correctly: ‘If I give you a chicken, what will you do with it?’ [Thirty-eight] said they’d take it home to mom to cook, and have a party. The other two said they would raise it and have eggs,” he said approvingly.

Indeed, he’s big on common sense. “College doesn’t give you common sense,” he continued. “A lot of people go to college and get smart, but they can’t fix a leaky toilet or change the tire on a car.”

Asked what’s next for him, Secard didn’t miss a beat. “Old cars and young women!” he said with a laugh.