Swimming Pool / Spa Age Magazine - January 1997
Long Island Hot Tubs: From New York to the World Wide Web
Opportunities pop up in the strangest places. For Dan Harrison, owner of Long Island Hot Tubs and Paramount Pools, Mastic, Long Island, N.Y., nothing could ring more true. Dan started with a swimming pool service company before he was inspired.
|One winter, while
vacationing on the ski slopes in Vermont, Dan had a vision: Hot tubs all over Long Island.
"I can still remember that night, sitting in the hot tub with my friends,
saying, Wow! I bet if we sold these on Long Island, people would really buy
them!" he recalls. Upon his return to Mastic, Dan began what would be a
flourishing spa retail establishment, selling 150 to 200 spas each year. The business
thrived for almost 11 years until a recession hit Long Island in 1991. The area, which is
tied to the defense industry, was wiped out by military and government cutbacks.
Dan tried to hold on to the store during the recession, but by August, his spa sales totaled 30. "When we closed the store, I was depressed," he says. "But when I look back on it, it was the best thing that could have happened."
Why? Dan took his retail savvy and his dedication to spas and he got into the publishing business, so to speak. In addition to maintaining his pool and spa service business, Dan began a mail order operation, complete with catalogs, selling spa chemicals, accessories and other related wares. He rode the wave of success in that venture - until he learned how to surf.
Dan watched as the World Wide Web grew and grew. Finally, he sunk a little money and a lot of time into creating his own Web site, which debuted in November 1995. "I figured we would get some e-mail messages, but it wouldnt be that big of a thing," he says. "But weve already had more than a quarter of a million people visit this site in the last 10 months. Everyday we get e-mails, orders for products, etc." According to Dan, the Internet service is generating more sales of spa accessories and chemicals than his retail store.
The bottom line: Dan is now a national - no - international, retailer. "Before the invention of the Internet, in order for a little spa guy sitting in Mastic to go nationwide, it would have cost millions of dollars in television advertising or big mass mailings, "Dan says. "Now you invest a couple hundred or couple thousand dollars into getting a site, and all of a sudden youre world wide." Even though hes not selling face-to-face, Dan still makes customer appreciation the No.1 priority. "If you can get the spa customer, even if they just call or order something online, to talk to you and think youre knowledgeable, youve got that customer for life," he says. Dans other pride and joy is Hot Tub News. He created the bi-monthly newsletter, which includes informative articles and anecdotes for the world of spas. The piece goes out to all customers, old and new. You can even request a "spa - scription via his Web site.