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SPECIAL REPORT 2020

THE REGION’S BUSINESS MAGAZINE

PAT I O POOLS & S PA S 50 YEARS SERVING ARIZONA

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PAT I O POOLS & S PA S From left â&#x20AC;&#x201C;

Eugene Ragel III Production Manager

Gene Ragel Jr. President

Nicole Ragel VP

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PHOTO: BRENT G. MATHIS

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PHOTOS: COURTESY PATIO POOLS & SPAS

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50 Ye a r s Ser ving Ar izona By April Bourie If you live in Tucson, you likely have a fond memory involving a pool, whether as adventuresome play as a child, at pool parties, or watching your own kids expend some of their energy. In March, Patio Pools & Spas celebrated 50 years of making some of those memories. Nicole Ragel, Patio Pools & Spas VP, attributed the company’s halfcentury of success to staying focused on the founder’s values: provide high-quality construction, products and services; value its employees; and support its community. Gene Ragel Sr. started building swimming pools in Tucson in 1946 with Johnny Austad, owner of Austad Steel. Austad was a steel fabricator, concrete contractor and innovator. Together, they built many poured-concrete pools, as well as water tanks and fallout shelters, with a steel-forming system. In 1958, Gene and Jack Wilson, who also worked at Austad Steel, left the company to found Ragel Wilson Pools. With the introduction of Shotcrete, customer pools became the focus of their company. From 1959 to 1963, Ragel built approximately 75 pools a year until he moved to Phoenix, where he designed and sold pools for Paddock Pools. In 1969 Shasta Pools hired Ragel to manage a new company in Tucson named Patio Pools. In March 1970, he had the opportunity to move back to the booming Phoenix market or purchase Patio Pools. He opted to purchase the company and, with partner Jon Evans, they changed the company’s direction to customer pools built to extremely highquality standards offered at affordable prices. The philosophy was a hit with pool buyers in Tucson; within only one year Patio Pools & Spas became Southern Arizona’s largest customer pool and spa builder. Soon thereafter, they opened the first fullservice retail pool supply store carrying pool chemicals, accessories and toys as well as patio furniture. continued on page 144 >>> www.BizTucson.com

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BizPOOLS continued from page 143 The store also carried a new product to the Tucson market – above-ground acrylic hot tubs. In 1978, Patio Pools went on to a record 817 projects and, by the end of the decade, Patio Pools & Spas had opened a total of five retail stores. With the dawning of the 1980s, Ragel bought out his partner. Within six months, the nation was plunged into a deep economic recession that caused many businesses to fail, but Patio Pools & Spas soldiered on. In 1982, Ragel suffered a fatal heart attack. His wife, Dorothy, took over the company’s reins, and with the support of her children in the business and an experienced management team, the business grew steadily throughout the 1980s. Today, Gene Ragel Jr. is Patio’s president. Nicole Ragel, his wife, serves as VP, while their son, Eugene III – known as ER – is the company’s production manager. “I’m proud that I am not only following in my father’s footsteps. I get to work

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side by side with my son and wife,” Gene Jr. said. “My dad wanted people to have an affordable pool that was built with above-standard construction practices and high-quality materials. Exceeding customer satisfaction was his goal, just as it is ours today.”

When we met with Patio Pools, they clicked with us from the beginning. They made the design and building process easy. –

Nina and Brian Larabee Customers

Over the years, Patio Pools & Spas has built an exceptional reputation for high-quality, affordable swimming pools and outstanding service. The company continues that today in each of its retail

stores, its pool renovation department and its service department. Patio Pools & Spas is equally dedicated to its employees. It’s an approach that permeates each of Patio’s storefronts and it’s one the family feels contributes to its high customer service ratings. “Our corporate culture has a family environment,” explained Nicole. “The Ragel family works side by side with our employees to make the company successful. We have several people that have worked here for over 40 years, and 50% of our retail staff have been with us for over 20 years.” Training is central to the company’s investment in its employees and it was one of the reasons the Ragels recently purchased a Poolwerx franchise. Poolwerx is one of the world’s largest pool and hot tub/spa maintenance providers. It provides exhaustive training in all aspects of pool service, maintenance and retail services. Patio Pools & Spas has contributed to the community by giving its employees a say in which organizations and causes continued on page 148 >>>

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BizPOOLS continued from page 144 the company supports. “We are proud members of the community,” said Nicole. “We live here, and we want to invest in our community. That goes a long way with our customers because you don’t see as many pool builders get as involved as we do.” Staying true to these core values is paying off. Diana Delgado has used Patio Pools & Spas to build two pools, one in the 1980s and another in 2018 at her new home. “I was really happy with them the first time, and I figured that they had to be good to survive the recent economy fall,” Delgado said. “I didn’t even check around when I was ready to build my new pool. I just went with Patio Pools.” Delgado wasn’t disappointed. The company designed and built her a beautiful pool, built a custom grotto and assisted with the plumbing, gas and electrical on her outdoor shower. “The first time I worked with them was great,” said Delgado. “The second time was even better. I am a very happy customer.” Patio Pools & Spas handles the maintenance of Delgado’s pool. “The weekly maintenance service is excellent. They let me know immediately about any issues that need to be resolved and are on the repairs the next day,” she said. Nina and Brian Larabee, who live in Vail, also sing Patio Pools & Spas’ praises. “We called several pool companies before we found Patio Pools,” Nina said. “They either didn’t return our calls or they wouldn’t come to our area to build our pool. When we met with Patio Pools, they clicked with us from the beginning. They made the design and building process easy.” “ER Ragel was our production manager, and he was always spot-on,” said Brian. “He knows so much about the process and gave us advice throughout the entire build. It was a great experience, and it was completed when they said it would be.” The Larabees maintain their own pool and have been impressed with Patio Pools & Spas/Poolwerx retail locations. “Their employees are well-educated about their products and extremely helpful,” said Nina. “They do an absolutely fabulous job!”

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Casino Del Sol

PHOTOS: COURTESY PATIO POOLS & SPAS

The Retreat â&#x20AC;&#x201C; University of Arizona Housing

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Special Olympics kickoff event in February, which included a Polar Plunge at a community pool. Patio Pools & Spas provided an above-ground party spa for participants to warm up, and several of its employees participated in the plunge. The event raised more than $31,000, the highest amount ever.

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BizPOOLS

Giving Back to the Community

Children Benefit from Patio Pools & Spas Support

PHOTOS: GENE RAGEL

By April Bourie

When you hear the name “Patio Pools & Spas,” you might picture a blissful backyard setting with a cool, blue pool in the center. But Patio Pools & Spas is much more than pool construction, service and maintenance. As the Tucson company celebrates 50 years in business, it also recommits itself to being an active member of the community. “We’re a success because of the community, and it’s our responsibility to give back,” said Nicole Ragel, Patio Pools & Spas VP. “We live here and we want to invest in our community, and I think that sets us apart from our competition.” The company’s support of many charity organizations and community events include the Arizona Heart Foundation, Tucson Medical Center’s Miracle Children’s Network and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson. For many years, the company has sponsored drowning prevention programs. “We like to participate in events that have something in relationship to pools or water,” said Ragel. To that end, Patio Pools & Spas supported the Special Olympics kickoff event in February, which included a Polar Plunge at a community pool. The company provided an www.BizTucson.com

above-ground party spa for participants to warm up, and several of its employees participated in the plunge. “The company is really great about bringing awareness to our employees about causes that management is passionate about and offering employees

We live here and we want to invest in our community. Nicole Ragel VP Patio Pools & Spas –

the opportunity to get involved,” said Kathy Gilmore, Patio Pools & Spas office manager. “When employees learned about the Polar Plunge, it was great to see the employees’ excited faces and hear many of them plan to participate. It’s also a great bonding opportunity for our employees.” Ragel takes employees’ favorite charities and organizations into consideration. “When I’m considering supporting a charity event, I also consider if this is something that employees would en-

joy or would be a nice reward for them to attend,” she said. The Event, a tasting event hosted by the Boys & Girls Clubs, is one such event that’s popular with Patio Pool’s employees. Laurie Wetterschneider, a Patio Pools & Spas client and an emeritus boards member of BGC, approached Ragel five years ago to sponsor The Event. “She responded within moments and agreed to be a sponsor,” said Wetterschneider. “Their continued support is invaluable as the funds raised by The Event are directly used to run the operations of our clubhouses.” Patio Pools & Spas built Wetterschneider’s pool back in the 1980s, and when her parents needed a pool built, she recommended the company for the job because of the excellent workmanship and customer service. “They’re our family pool builder. The same technical adviser has worked with us for 23 years,” she said. “I know we can always call him and get help whenever we need it, even on holidays and weekends.” What really thrills Wetterschneider is the level of community support the company provides. She said, “If I’m going to give business to someone, it’s going to be someone who gives back.”

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PHOTOS: GENE RAGEL

AFTER

BEFORE

Patio Pools & Spas and Poolwerx Partner to Serve Tucson By April Bourie Green water. Plaster cracks. Tile that’s coming loose. Many things can go wrong when a pool isn’t properly maintained. From weekly administration of chemicals to keep the water in balance to biggerticket items like pumps, heaters and water features, regular pool maintenance is www.BizTucson.com

critical to prevent deterioration and, at worst, failure. In an effort to better help its customers handle any issues to properly maintain their pools, Patio Pools & Spas retail outlets are now Poolwerx franchises, offering pool services, retail products and pool maintenance training for do-

it-yourselfers who need a little help. The franchise is a new investment for Patio Pools & Spas, and it’s one that Nicole Ragel, VP of Patio Pools & Spas, said benefits both customers and the company. continued on page 155 >>> Spring 2020

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continued from page 153 “Poolwerx’s core value is ‘find a better way.’ They work with franchise owners to find a better way to be on the cutting edge with products, training and procedures,” Ragel said. “Their corporate office is in Dallas, and they have a large training facility there where we can send our employees to learn about the newest trends and products.” Ragel added that Poolwerx also offers training on the business side. Management training is available in a variety of areas, including effective human resources management, customer service and business best practices. “We have a conference call once a month with other franchisees to share ideas about marketing, employee retention and retail and also to discuss what’s working

10-time winner of the Pool and Spa News Industry Choice Award

Pool & Spa News Top 5 Retailers in Industry

MAAX Spas Dealer of the Year

International Award “Masters of Design” for Hot Tub and Pool categories

MAAX Spas Platinum Level Customer Service Award

FreeFlow Spas Dealer of the Year Award

TuffTool Dealer of the Year Award

Bigfish Best Local Hot Tub/Retail Store

Finalist in the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce 2012 Copper Cactus Award “Best Places to Work” in Tucson

We have designed, built and renovated more than 30,000 pools since 1969

Top 50 Pool Builder worldwide since the program’s inception

2013 Poolsearch.com’s Best Pool Builder

Ranked in the Top 20 Pool & Spa Companies in the world by Pool & Spa News

5-time winner of the Platinum Service Award from Coleman Spas

More than 125 International Design Awards

We’ve built many of Southern Arizona’s resort pools, commercial projects and residential pools

We are Southern Arizona’s oldest and largest pool builder

We have been a BBB and ROC member for more than 45 years

Nominated for the BBB Torch Awards in 2013 for Ethics

Award winner for PebbleTec’s World’s Greatest Pool Builders

When you own and operate a company, you’re so busy that it’s hard to give 100 % to every single part of the company. Poolwerx gives us more time to focus on our customers.

– ER Ragel Production Manager Patio Pools & Spas

for us in various parts of our businesses,” Ragel said. Employees who attend training not only come away with more knowledge, but they also bond with co-workers and create networks of their own with franchisee employees in other parts of the country. “We’re utilizing the global knowledge and experience of the franchise to benefit our company, our employees and our customers locally,” said Ragel. ER Ragel, Patio Pools & Spas production manager, said having a partner in the business benefits everyone, from the company to staff to customers. “When you own and operate a company, you’re so busy that it’s hard to give 100% to every single part of the company,” he said. “Poolwerx has many tried and true offerings that we can take advantage of, including forms, checklists, market research and even procedures that follow code requirements. This gives us more time to focus on our customers and their needs.” By joining forces with other franchisees around the nation through Poolwerx, Patio Pools & Spas has reduced costs. “We’re able to purchase products and software in greater volume with other franchisees to reduce costs and purchase risks,” Nicole said. “This allows us to get competitive pricing that we can pass along to our customers.” Biz www.BizTucson.com

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