Warmer temperatures are finally hitting the area, and it’s time to start thinking about how to cool off when it gets hot. When looking to add a new addition to your home like a water feature - a pool, hot tub, or spa - a smart consumer should consider many things including their budget, their available room and regulations, and which company they trust to install and provide support.
When it comes to a large purchase that will take up as much square footage as a feature like this, a consumer should be looking for a company that has been in the business long enough to know where to get the best materials and which questions you should be asking. Great deals don’t always make for the best choice for your home - you’ll want to ensure that whatever installation you decide, it fits well, works for what you want, and that it’s of good quality.
Pepper’s Pool and Spa in Kansas City, Northland checks the boxes - they’ve been in business for over 35 years; providing great service and building a reputation in the area. We sat down with one of the owners and founders, Sharon Land, and with the manager and Sharon’s daughter, Kim Goldsbury, to learn more about what their secret sauce is.
It’s great to meet both of you and chat some more about your business. I’ve heard a lot about you. Remind me again, how long have you guys been open?
Sharon: Thirty-six years. It will be thirty-seven in June.
Amazing, and you guys have been up in the Northland all that time?
Sharon: Yes, this is our third location, but we’ve always been in this area. We kept outgrowing the space! This was the best move to date for us: this is our largest location yet and it’s so spacious. Just perfect for us.
You said you and your husband started Pepper’s Pools together. How did you get into a business like pools?
Sharon: My husband and I were always entrepreneurs. Ever since we got married, we always wanted to find a business that we could do together. Selling was the easy option at first. Back then we were in Springfield. We started selling water beds and opened several stores in Missouri. When the market began to shrink, we decided to switch industries and made the move back to Kansas City. We started thinking about what kind of business we would open together. We did a lot of research into it and found several hot tubs and pool places around Kansas City, but only one in the Northland - it was like the gap in the market was just waiting for us.
So was it everything all at once or did you gradually become what you are now?
Sharon: We actually started with hot tubs. We soon realized we could also provide the chemicals needed to sustain the hot tubs. We began offering chemicals for pools to become more of a one-stop-shop, and then it just made sense: why not the pools themselves? Over the years, we’ve gotten to know a lot of the local contractors, we have good pull with the distribution companies and we’ve had a lot of the same staff over the years who have helped us build our reputation.
Anyone in particular you’re thinking of when it comes to that reputation?
Sharon: First person that comes to mind is Bob. It’s hilarious, we’ve been around long enough and he’s been with us long enough that he’s known around town as “Bob the Pool Guy.” He loves it. We’ve been taking care of people so long they know who we are. I also attribute a lot of our success to my daughter, Kim. She’s so good with customers. They’ll shop around and come back, telling us that they’ve decided that we’re who they want to go with because we obviously care about them and their needs.
Kim: Well, I can’t take all the credit. I worked in customer service for a few years - IT, Call Centers - I just learned a long time ago how truly frustrating it can be to be a customer and not know the answers - or even the right questions to ask! We try to be relatable and, like mom said, we have been around long enough to know what it is that a customer is looking for. When they have problems, we are right there to help them. We get a lot of repeat customers too.
Sharon: We call it having “Tribal Knowledge.”
“Tribal Knowledge” - tell me a bit about that.
Kim: We’ve been in business for as long as we have, of course, but that means that we’ve amassed a “tribe,” so to speak, of people who are experts in their field; who have been around the block and know what to look for and what we should be doing. My parents, our staff, the contractors, the distributors, and me - we take care of the customers collectively and bounce off each other to do the best work possible.
Sounds like you guys know what you’re about. What was the hardest time for the business?
Kim: I think it would be… 2009, during the recession.
Sharon: Yeah, that sounds about right. People had bigger things to worry about than their luxury items, their non-essentials.
Kim: Although, once you’ve had a hot tub, it really feels like an essential. We had no trouble keeping our current customers, but finding new ones was definitely a challenge.
Did the same thing happen in 2020?
Sharon: It’s the oddest thing, we actually didn’t see that happen this time around.
Kim: Well, everyone was home! No one could go to the spa, or go on vacation. We had a lot of people come in and say “Well, we couldn’t go to Disney World, so we decided to get a pool.” We actually have had a steady stream of business ever since people have been home more often. People are realizing the value of being able to pamper yourself when you’re at home, and that in the long run, it really can become a money saver.
You’d likely know all about that, too. Do the two of you have hot tubs?
Kim: You bet we do. Kids will treat a hot tub like a pool, so it’s like having both. I used to just use it at night, but now I’ve learned to enjoy it in the morning before work or on the weekends. I’ll get my coffee, watch some commentary on TV, relax a little to start my day.
Sharon: I do a lot of yard work outside, so I’ll often go out in the morning, work in the yard and then soak and relax in the hot tub after. My back can start to bother me, but the hot tub really helps. It keeps me going, re-energizes me to get to something else.
That definitely sounds wonderful for aches and pains. So where do you see Pepper’s going over the next couple of years?
Kim: I’m excited about our SwimSpas - they have strong enough jets that swimmers can train in them. We’re getting some new hot tubs on the floor, and there’s a new kind of pool becoming popular, too, it’s called “on-ground” as opposed to “in-ground” or “above ground” - it’s a bit of both. We’re hoping to begin providing those soon also.
Sharon: I am just proud to see how far we’ve come. Our different locations, new offerings, our reputation - it all spells good things for our business.