Pettis Pools

Zach Lynch

What are the questions you ask to determine the right pool for your customers?

The first thing I ask is what they’re envisioning for the project. So it’s always dependent on what their design thoughts are. We might recommend that they do landscape design first to see what size pool they’re looking for. I can go to the property and give them some guidance, but I recommend they connect with a local landscape designer to have something designed for them.

After that, it breaks down to budgets. Sometimes your thoughts and hopes exceed what you’re willing to put into a pool. We can add or eliminate features from there based on what their budget is.

Sometimes things eat into their budget, like if they need a retaining wall or special drainage done for their property. That can take up a large chunk of the budget, so that might affect what type of pool they go with.

How did COVID-19 affect your sales?

When COVID started, my co-manager and I thought we’d be looking for new jobs. We wound up being the busiest we’ve ever been. Our sales went through the roof. People would come in and I’d say, “This is what I have left,” and they’d say, “Okay, I’ll take it.” We were booking out two years on inground pools, hot tubs … we sold out of everything we had. There were six-month waiting times on them. Saunas as well. We were very lucky that people were home and that they wanted to invest in their homes.

Explain the process of a pool installation.

We start with working with a landscaper to work on a design. Once we’ve landed on the pool and the design we want, then we start on the installation. We dig a hole, build the frame of the pool, and then the mason comes out to pour the concrete sidewalk and any patio they want. We subcontract with a mason, so we line all that up. We also have an electrician we work with. Then we come with a liner and fill the pool, and the pool portion is done.

Outside of that, you’re going to have a bunch of dirt. After the pool is built is when the landscaping will come into play and fencing and that type of stuff. We use a lot of the dirt for grading purposes, but if there is additional dirt and they don’t want it on the property, we have a contractor that we work with to haul the dirt away.

When we leave, you have a beautiful pool with concrete around it, and it’s ready to swim in.

What goes into maintaining a pool? Do you provide any of those services?

We don’t offer pool cleaning services here at Pettis. I think we will in the future, but right now it’s been a staffing issue, so we’re focused more on repair work and emergency needs. But there are companies that will come out every week to test your water and clean the pool for you.

For pool maintenance, there are things like salt systems that take a lot of the control out of the homeowner’s hands so you don’t have to worry about it as much. Still, I say test your water weekly. You can bring it into the store — we test it for free — or just use a strip. Obviously, add chemicals as you need to. And brush and vacuum your pool weekly. If it’s too overwhelming for you, then invest in a robotic cleaner, because they are the greatest time savers out there. You can throw that thing in there and walk away.

It can be overwhelming, but there are investments you can make to get around that. Get a salt system to take care of the sanitizer portion of it and get a robotic cleaner to take care of the vacuuming for you.

Speaking of salt, do you sell saltwater pools too?

We do. One common misconception is that it’s not chlorine. A saltwater pool is still chlorine — it just takes sodium chloride and converts it to chlorine.

The reason you might choose a saltwater system is ease of use. Again, it’s automatically feeding chlorine into the pool, so it’s taking away the necessity of getting chlorine tablets and filling up your feeder and checking it every few days.

Another benefit is that is does feel softer on the skin. Kind of like when you step out of the ocean, you have that silky feel to your skin.

Saltwater pools are more expensive. They can add a couple thousand dollars onto the cost of the pool. I always tell people if they’re looking at a pool but they’re concerned about a budget, heaters and saltwater systems are two things you can add at any time. You can start on a more budget-friendly option and switch to salt down the road if you want. Outside of heaters, saltwater systems are our most popular upgrade option.

You also build and install saunas. What are the benefits of using a sauna?

There are a ton of health benefits to using a sauna. The most popular known benefit is detoxification. You’re sweating out toxins.

There are muscle recovery benefits for post-workout, joint health benefits, and you also have blood pressure modulation. You get a cardiovascular workout while you’re in there because it’s raising your core temperature, causing your heart to beat faster. While it is relaxing, you’re giving yourself a cardiovascular workout at the same time. It’s great for your overall heart health in the long run.

The other thing saunas do that I think is the most beneficial is raising your body temperature. It creates a false fever, which boosts your white blood cell production.

When is the best time of year to plan a pool installation?

I was just meeting with someone who wants an inground pool. We’re booking out until September right now. While it is a little late in the year to plan for it, the one thing I always stress to customers is the year you’re putting in your inground pool is your “building year.” A lot of people will say they’ll hold off until next year because they want it for the whole season, but then you’re delaying yourself even more.

I think the best time of year to build a pool is late summer to early fall, because the ground is drier. We do less damage in and out. And then when the weather peaks next year, you have a pool ready. Maybe you just have to do landscaping around it, rather than in the spring, when you’re waiting for the weather to break for us to come out and tear up your garden to install a pool.

We estimate about a month for the install of a pool. When we leave after that month, you’re still going to want to do landscaping, so there’s a lot to plan for when you’re getting into an inground pool.

Do you have any memorable stories of a particularly challenging pool installation?

We had one guy who wanted to do this beautiful fireplace waterfall feature going right into the pool. It was a very heavy setup. So we didn’t just want to build it on top of our standard pool walls. We typically do steel walls and all-vinyl liner pools, but with this pool, we had to do one wall out of concrete. It came out beautifully. The overall layout of it was awesome, and the landscaper he worked with did a phenomenal job.

It’s always satisfying when we finish an inground pool. Our customers are fantastic. When we finish, they realize, “We did this for the family time.” After we’ve installed the pool, I’ll talk to them in the store afterwards for water testing and stuff, and they’ll say, “We’re all together. We’re using the pool, we’re hanging out there on the weekends.” That is very gratifying. Even if you’re going with a small above-ground pool, you’re doing it to get everybody together.

What should people know about pool safety?

When you do an inground pool, a fence is required. That is New York State code. A four-foot fence has to go around an inground pool or around the yard. Another code that has been in place for about 10 years now is a pool alarm, which is basically just something that sits in the pool and detects when a wake is created.

There is also something called a Baby-Loc fence from the company Loop-Loc. It’s a mesh fence that you install on the concrete around the pool that is virtually indestructible. It’s a very durable mesh safety fence that you put inside your regular fence. This gives you an added layer of security. You can remove it during the winter or in the future when you don’t have little kids running around.

Tell us about your showroom.

We have two locations: one on the west side of Rochester, which is our original store, and our other store in East Rochester. At our Hilton store out west, we have a pool park outside. We have four different above-ground pools built and one beautiful inground pool. If someone is looking for an inground pool, typically we start by taking them out to our built pool. I also have a ton of different pictures of pools we’ve done over the years, and brochures from the manufacturers to generate ideas.

Both stores have everything you need and beyond for the pool — the robotic cleaners down to chlorine tablets and shock. We carry everything.

Pettis Pools has won countless awards over its 60-year history. What makes you stand out among your competitors?

We’ve won roughly 20 Rochester Choice Awards from the Democrat and Chronicle. Our name is very well known because we’ve been here for 62 years.

The reason we’ve been around that long is because of our service. When I started here, it was kind of preached to me that this is a family-run company, and it still is to this day. We extend that family treatment to our customers. Customers walk in here and we know them by name. Our customer service is what sets us apart. We try really hard and strive to make sure the customer is always happy. I think our customers know that, and that’s why they stick with us. People know that we work very hard.

We’ve always been fair. We don’t build up our prices so that we can put them on sale. We’re always offering our lowest possible prices. We’re honest about everything we do.

I’ve been here at Pettis for 13 years, since when I first got out of high school. I thought it was just going to be a summer job. I started in the warehouse, and now I’m managing the store here. The owners of the company are fantastic people. They take care of their customers as much as they do their employees. I couldn’t be happier.

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