Troy Christ and Bobby Ham worked for a combined 30 years in the retail and service business before pooling their resources to open Blue Bottom Pool & Spa Supply on Whitestone Boulevard in Cedar Park in 2010.
With the knowledge and experience gained from decades of taking care of pools, the duo educates customers on proper pool and spa maintenance and offers advice for specific problems.
"It puts us ahead of the game, big time," said Christ, who requires employees to gain hands-on experience caring for pools. "I want them in the backyards," he said.
Blue Bottom Pools—which now includes two locations—is partly a family business. The third co-owner is Seon Jaramillo, who is Ham's brother-in-law. Jaramillo handles the shop's marketing from his home in San Antonio and commutes to the stores when possible. Additionally, Christ has an uncle who keeps the books, and Ham's uncle cleans pools for the company.
With the opening of a second store on RR 620 near Anderson Mill Road in April, Blue Bottom Pools has expanded its reach but continues to focus on the core services that keep the company afloat. The retail stores sell parts and chemicals, and offer education and water analysis. The service side of the business cleans about 100 pools per week. The company also sells, installs and repairs above-ground pools.
A free water analysis service offered at both locations brings many customers in the door, Christ said. Most take-home water test kits only check levels of chlorine, pH and alkalinity, he said. But with the in-store system, customers get a reading on 15 different aspects of water quality.
"But it's not like we just hand you a piece of paper, and you're on your own," he said, adding the company will send customers home with step-by-step instructions on which chemicals to add to the water and in what order.
Customers who are new to pool maintenance can be overwhelmed by water problems and sometimes think their only option is to drain the pool, Christ said.
"But we try very hard to teach them how to maintain it without having to drain it," he said. "That's literally the whole point of this store."
Ham said he often advises customers to treat their water in different ways depending on the season, which reduces the use of chemicals that may build up over time.
Learning to maintain a backyard pool efficiently through the challenges of each season takes time and effort, Christ said.
"It takes almost everybody a full season to really wrap their head around their pool," he said.
Learning how to manage a backyard pool can be overwhelming, so homeowners seeking one-on-one instruction can enroll in Pool School with Blue Bottom Pool & Spa Supply. For $150, a company employee will provide a personalized training session at the homeowner's pool that lasts about two hours.
Topics covered may include managing chemicals, operating and labeling equipment, cleaning out debris, brushing the pool, testing the water, taking photographs of equipment to keep on file at the store, and discussing the routine maintenance required on a weekly and monthly basis.
Customers are also able to call or come in to either location during store hours to ask questions for free. Bringing in pictures of pool equipment or specific problems is recommended.
Blue Bottom Pool & Spa Supply, www.bluebottompoolsupply.com, Twitter: @bbpoolsupply, Hours: Mon.–Sat. 9 a.m.–7 p.m., Sun. noon–4 p.m.
Cedar Park, 601 E. Whitestone Blvd., Ste. 704, 512-259-7665
Austin, 11416 N. RR 620, Ste. J, 512-436-9572