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Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Hot Tub Works LLC Receives 2018 Best of West Chicago Award

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2018 Best of West Chicago Award presented to Hot Tub Works LLCWEST CHICAGO — Hot Tub Works LLC has been selected for the 2018 Best of West Chicago Award in the Sporting and Recreational Goods/Supplies category by the West Chicago Award Program. This marks the third consecutive year that Hot Tub Works has received this prestigious award.

Each year, the West Chicago Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the West Chicago area a great place to live, work and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2018 West Chicago Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the West Chicago Award Program and data provided by third parties.

About West Chicago Award Program

The West Chicago Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the West Chicago area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.

The West Chicago Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community’s contributions to the U.S. economy.

Press Release Courtesy of West Chicago Award Program

16 Funny TV Ads Featuring Hot Tubs

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Hot Tubs are a favorite theme for advertisers, because of their appeal to the emotions. In this collection of 16 product ads featuring hot tubs, spas are portrayed as sexy, relaxing, awkward – or all of the above. Take a look, and share this post if you chuckled, even just a little bit.

 

 

Too Funny ~ Hot Tubs as popular culture! Hat Tip to Bullfrog Spas blog who first posted their Funniest Hot Tub Commercials on TV, and inspired this updated version.

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

Hot Tub Tips for Rental Homes

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Home Rental Hot Tubs The vacation rental and short term housing rental market is booming. One amenity that can help grow a rental home’s popularity as well as fetch a higher rental price is a hot tub.

Hot tubs are fairly self-regulating, and require only minimal care in between tenants, but there are a few things to keep in mind, if you currently offer a hot tub or are thinking about adding a hot tub to your rental home.

Here are 5 Tips for owners/managers of vacation rentals with hot tubs.

 

Get it in Writing

pool-guy-contractFor homes that are rented with a hot tub, we recommend a separate agreement be signed by the tenant, in addition to the usual agreement covering the home and other appliances. Having a separate agreement will help to reinforce important safety requirements, and help to protect your investment. After all, it may be the most expensive appliance in the home.

Though not an all-inclusive list of potential problems (check with your legal adviser), however, any good spa and hot tub addendum should include:

  • Minimum age for unsupervised use of the hot tub. (typically 14-18 yrs)
  • Minimum age for supervised use of the hot tub. (typically 5 yrs)
  • Maximum number of persons in spa (capacity).
  • Maximum safe spa temperature is 102° or less.
  • …must replace spa cover and latch cover clips after use.
  • …must add water if level drops below indicator on skimmer.
  • …must shower or bathe before use.
  • …no pets allowed at any time.
  • …no eating, no smoking, and only drink water from plastic cups only
  • …do not use spa if pregnant or hypertensive (high blood pressure)
  • …do not use spa if under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • …do not use spa if water looks poor, smells bad, or without pump running
  • Notify management of any equipment failure or water problems
  • Use at your own risk. Tenant agrees to hold owner harmless for any injuries…
  • Responsibility for any damage to equipment, spa cover or spa surfaces…

 

Put it in Writing

The more instructions you give to your renter, the better. I’m often frustrated at rentals that don’t have a master ‘Operations Manual’, where one can find answers to just about anything, including the spa and hot tub.

HOT-TUB-GUIDEHot Tub Guide: A 3-ring binder, with plastic inserts to display spa operation modes (jets, heating, filter), and basic functions. A sheet detailing safety and health requirements, and information on basic spa care tasks like adding water, shocking the spa, or refilling the bromine floater. A page on how to safely remove and reinstall the spa cover can help prevent spa cover damage. Finally, insert the spa owners manual for those that want to really delve into spa functions.

Service Log Book: Even if you do all of the maintenance on the spa yourself, keeping detailed records of spa chemical readings, filter cleanings, equipment replacement, etc, could be required in your area. And even if it’s not required, you may be called upon to defend your spa maintenance practices, if a renter developed a rash or suffered physical injury in your hot tub. If you have a service company maintain the spa, require that they fill out the log book on each visit. Keep it in a dry location with the other supplies.

spa-safety-sign-smHot Tub Signs: I’m a big fan of signs, and in my mind it’s well worth it to pay for professional and durable printed signs that help to protect spa users and also your spa. The obligatory Spa Rules sign can be used, but you can also find premade signs for No Food/Drink, No Smoking or No Glass. Ideas for custom signs may include age limits, temperature limits, time in tub limits, or reminders to check water level, replace the spa cover, or turn down the temperature on check-out.

Get Hot Tub Help

If you live nearby and generally manage the entire guest experience, you may want to manage the spa/hot tub as well. Or you can sub-contract spa care to a local spa company or rental assistance company that caters to the rental industry. Depending on your location, weekly hot tub service calls cost $60-$90.

You can also ask your guests to help maintain the spa. Asking them to balance the water, vacuum the spa and clean the cartridge may be a bit much, but you may want to consider asking for help with:

  • Shock the spa after each use (with specific directions).please-help-with-the-spa
  • Add water to spa if below the mid-skimmer mark.
  • Keep the spa cover installed and latched when not using spa.
  • Shower or bathe before using spa, for everyone’s health.
  • Notify management of any hot tub problems.

 

Water Changes

cloudy-spa-waterIt’s common practice among some rental homes with hot tubs to drain the water after each renter, after check-out. However, this can be difficult to do in one day, and have it hot again by check-in time; and it may not always be necessary.

A good look at the water quality, along with testing water balance and bromine or chlorine levels, can quickly tell you if the water needs to be changed. An option to a complete water change is a partial water change with complete balancing, shocking and cleaning the spa filter cartridge.

Most spas in a rental environment can go as long as 4-8 weeks between complete water changes, as long as filter cycles are lengthy and effective, and water balance and sanitizer levels are maintained properly. Other things can also help lengthen water life, see below.

 

Water Problems

Notwithstanding the above statements, if your tenants leave the spa or hot tub water in a cloudy, gray condition, it may be best to drain the tub. If you find that you have regular problems with water quality in your rental spa, or want to increase the length of time between water changes, here’s some things to do:

  • Add a Second Filter. Many spas have enough vertical space to install a second Spa Filter cartridge to double the filtration.
  • Add a Purifier. In addition to bromine or chlorine, use Minerals or Ozone to help prevent water problems or health issues.
  • Shock after Use. Keep a bottle of labeled MPS or Spa Shock, and ask tenant to add a specific amount after use.
  • Use a Clarifier. Pods, tablets or liquid clarifier to assist your filter in trapping microscopic debris.
  • Replace the Cartridge. Every 6-12 months, replace your spa filter with new.

 

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

Hot Tub Recycling or Hot Tub Graveyard?

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hot-tub-recyclingIf you have ever wondered what to do with an old, unused and probably non-working hot tub – this post is for you. The lifespan of a hot tub needn’t be short, the shell and other parts can last a lifetime, with occasional equipment repair and replacement, or a few spa parts here and there.

And that’s part of the problem, is that acrylic spas are built to last, and they aren’t biodegradable, as a wooden hot tub can be. Plus, it’s too big to fit in your blue recycle bin! If you call a local junk pickup service, they take the spa straight away to the landfill and just kick it off the truck. This is the least “green” option of getting rid of an old hot tub.

Trade-in your Hot Tub

If you are planning to buy a new spa, a slightly more green way to recycle a spa is to trade it in on a new model. Many spa dealers and manufacturers have a program to haul off your previous spa at no charge, and may even pay you something for it. Spa shops may then strip the spa of any useable parts, or they may sell it to a spa scrapper who may rebuild or refurbish the spa, to resell it as reconditioned. But most of the time, they just haul the tub around back to the spa graveyard. Photo below is of several spa manufacturers lots, courtesy of Google Earth.

spa-graveyards

Sell your used Hot Tub

You can sell it to a local spa scrapper / refurbisher, if you can find one. Check with friends and family. Post a listing on craigslist.com, or on freecycle.org. But don’t offer it for Free, ask for at least $100, up to $500 or more if the spa is in operating condition. When you offer a spa for free, it doesn’t seem that enticing, even if it holds water and heats up. If you can rent or borrow a truck and trailer, perhaps you may be able to deliver the spa (for a few hundred bucks more!).

Strip it Down and Recycle what you can

First, remove the spa pack and spa side controls, all of the equipment. You may have a better chance of selling the components. New spa packs can run over $1000, so you may be able to get some money for the equipment from a spa guy, or a fellow spa owner. At the very least, it can be useful for spare parts. After all of the electronics are removed, you can strip away the cabinet from the shell. Wood and plastic cabinets can be recycled. Next, cut off all of the PVC fittings, valves and pipes, which can also be recycled. Finally, the spa shell itself can be cut up into smaller pieces, using a reciprocating saw with a 9″ blade.  The acrylic spa shell is not recyclable, but a rotomolded (thermoplastic) spa shell can be recycled. The spa cover can also be recycled, separately into it’s components – vinyl, foam, steel, nylon.

Turn it into a Backyard Pond or Water Feature

hot-tub-garden-pond

After stripping down the spa as described above, the spa shell can be placed into the ground, and covered with a vinyl or rubber pond membrane, and surrounded by rocks and plants. A small pump in the bottom can supply water for a 3-tier fountain, spouting frogs or urinating boy statue – whatever you want. Keep it sanitary with copper sulfate or other natural sanitizer. Or, stock it with Koi fish and use plants and circulation to keep it clear. Be sure to consider safety, and place the water feature behind a fence or within the fenced backyard.

 

Turn it into a Gardenhot-tub-garden

After stripping down the spa and removing plumbing fittings, set it in the ground and fill it with dirt to make a very colorful box garden!

Choose a sunny spot in the yard, close to water and not too far of a walk, and you can grow your own summer and fall garden! An 8-person spa can hold a lot of vegetables!

 

Turn it into a Dog Househot-tub-dog-house

That’s what this energetic dog owner did, and not only did he create a warm dog house by flipping the spa shell upside-down, but he also integrated a water fountain into the top!

Using a reciprocating saw, he cut out the doggie door and placed a utility light on the inside to provide heat during the winter.

 



So, you see there are many options for recycling or re-purposing an old spa or hot tub. The easiest thing to do is to just pick up the phone and call a junk removal service, but remember, the easiest way is also the least green way of dealing with an old, unwanted spa or hot tub.

 

XOXO;

Gina Galvin
Hot Tub Works

 

 

Hot Tub Pioneers – Watkins Brothers

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early-hot-spring-spaIn the seventies, as spas and hot tubs were growing from a California cottage industry, two brothers toiled away in their Escondido garage to create a whole new type of hot tub.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Jon Watkins started up a pool service business when he came home after a tour in Vietnam as an Army aviator. While servicing pools in the Escondido, Ca area, he noticed how much his customers loved the pool side spas that were all-the-rage in southern California at the time.

“I thought that I could build a better spa than what was available – a movable appliance that would be hot and ready to use all the time”. Said Jon in a 1987 interview in Flying magazine. In 1976, Jon formed a new company with his brother Jeff, and they rented an old metal building in Carlsbad, Ca to manufacture portable spas.

“The industry was already turning away from redwood and oak hot tubs into prefabricated fiberglass shells. But fiberglass had some problems in performance”. Blisters and cracking was causing a flurry of surface problems for customers.

“Secondly, fiberglass shell designs were easily reverse engineered and made by people who wanted to get into the spa business, crank out a few hundred spas, and disappear – bad for the industry”. On top of that, spa energy usage had begun to be discussed, with the 70’s energy shortage in full steam, and current spa designs were not very energy efficient.early-hot-springs-logo

Jon Watkins recognized that some of the new materials being used in the boating industry should be suitable for spas. The new material Rovel, was lighter, stronger and easier to work with than fiberglass. It also was more durable than the new acrylic spas, being manufactured by Baja.

1976 – Jon & Jeff Watkins form Watkins Manufacturing Corporation and begin to make Hot Spring Spas.

1977 – a new thermoplastic Rovel®, created by Dow, was being developed by Jon and Jeff Watkins, and molded into a one-piece spa shell and cabinet.

1978 – Watkins introduces industry marvels such as a locking insulative spa cover, top load spa filters and underwater lighting.

1986 – Watkins joins the MASCO family of home products, a Taylor, Michigan based company.

1999 – Watkins acquires Caldera, an El Cajon, California manufacturer of spas and hot tubs.

2011 – Watkins company made it’s 1 millionth spa among all brands.

2015 – Watkins acquires Endless Pools, manufacturer of Swim Spas.

Watkins has been a consistent philanthropist through the years, and not only the many Orange County, California charities that it supports such as the local Children’s Hospital and Boys and Girls Club, but national organizations such as the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation.

They employ over 1000 people, and sales estimates have them earning revenues in excess of 200 million for all current brands, including Hot Spring, Caldera and American Hydrotherapy, Freeflow and Fantasy spas.HotSpring-Logo-300x156

That’s a long way to go, from making 3 spas per day, to now cranking out over 300 spas per day! Watkins currently operates through more than 700 retail locations in over 70 countries and all 50 states, with manufacturing facilities in California and Mexico, and distribution centers in Belgium, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand.

We salute the Watkins brothers, Jon and Jeff, as two Hot Tub Pioneers that hold dozens of patents and pushed the industry forward at every turn. The Watkins brothers were to hot tubs what the Wright brothers were to aviation!

 

– Jack

 

Hot Air Balloon Hot Tubs

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hot-air-balloon-hot-tubThis blog has reported on spas in some very strange places – suspended from a bridge, on top of a mountain, built inside of a cave or sunk into a glacier.

But a hot air balloon hot tub? Where would a off-beat start-up launch such a creative endeavor? Where else but in California?

In Napa Valley, they take Hot Tubbing to the extreme with Hot Air Balloon rides – in an 8 person hot tub, heated to 105°!

Hot Air Hot Tubs is the brainchild of Sergei Enganar, who with partner Pablo Payoso, dreamed up the idea while taking tourists aloft over the scenic northern California vineyards.

As Sergei tells it, “Several people had commented to us during our first few years, how cold it is up in the balloon, and that we should install a hot tub” After a few months of tinkering in a garage with fitting a hot tub shell into a hot air balloon basket, they were ready for the first test flight.

“We lost about 50 gallons [of water] on that first flight” says Sergei. Pablo chimes in to explain that they learned to fill the tub only about 3/4 of the way full, to avoid water loss when the basket swayed.

Asked how the pumps and heater operated, I was surprised at their ingenuity. The circulation pump is powered by a car battery, “Our pumps we had made to be able to run on 12V” says Sergei. “We tried to do the same for the heater, but it wouldn’t heat the water hot enough – so, we switched to gas!” Pablo says with an excited look in his eye.

hot-tub-hot-air-balloonA splitter manifold delivers gas to a small burner beneath a heat exchanger located on the side of the basket. When asked about heating water at high altitudes, they both agreed that it’s much faster, but Sergei added, “we have to monitor the temperature constantly as we ascend and descend, to avoid over or under heating the water”.

Heating challenges aside, how about all of that extra water weight? “Yes, it’s very heavy, we had to install twin burners on this balloon, to add enough lift to counter balance the weight of an extra 1.5 tons of water”.

Hot Tub Rules? I asked. No alcohol. No babies. No splashing. Clothing Optional? I asked. “We request normal swim suit attire”, says Pablo, with a sly grin.

Interesting… Hot water at 5000 feet! Now, I’ve seen it all!

If you want to take a ride in the Hot Air Balloon Hot Tub, you might have to wait awhile – and if you believe this malarkey, you just fell for our April Fool’s Joke!

You can’t put a hot tub in a hot air balloon! 🙂

 

Ha-Ha Happy Hot Tubbin’!
Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

 

Hot Tub Pioneers – Brett Aqualine

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brett spa pack em-100Hot Tubs took a giant leap forward when in 1977, when Jim Brett cobbled together the first spa pack, a single system that united the pump, heater, blower and controls onto one skid.

At the time, spas were being heated and treated with swimming pool equipment, which was oversized and overpriced. Another problem was that a portable spa market was being born, and to be truly portable, it needed a small, compact and portable, filtration and heating system.

“The problem with the first portable [spas] was that they were sold as a true portable that could be plugged into a 20-amp circuit,” said Jim Brett, president of Brett Aqualine.  However,  when you used the jets, the heater had to be turned off or the breaker would trip, and the spa temperature cooled rapidly without the heater, especially if you use an air blower or venture air intakes.

Brett designed a system capable of balancing high amperage loads with a controller, coupled with a spa side panel and a very compact spa package. The “Spa Pack” was born, in the late seventies, and Brett Aqualine dominated the business for many years.

There are still spas and hot tubs that are not capable of running the blower and the heater at the same time, any spa that you just plug into an outlet. Full featured spas require a larger dedicated circuit, hard-wired to the main panel, to power all of the modern span components.

Named to the Inc. 500 list as he #9 fastest growing company in 1987, Brett Aqualine grew sales from just $100,000 in 1983, to nearly $15M by 1987, an amazing growth spurt!

In 1998, Len Gordon purchases the assets of the Brett Aqualine corporation, expanding their products and reach. Just 3 years later, the Brett Aqualine company was sold along with Len Gordon’s other business units to Spa Builders Systems Group, which then reformed the growing company into a new entity – Allied Innovations.

brett aqualine logoToday,  many of Brett Aqualine products are available as Brett Aqualine by Allied Innovations. Truly one of the Pioneers of the Hot Tub industry, Jim Brett, along with co-founder Jim McNicol, helped usher in a more consumer friendly era for home spas and hot tubs.

We salute you!

 

– Jack

 

 

 

 

Hot Tub Pioneers – Baja Spas

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baja-spas-early-logoA booth at the 1971 NSPI show and the opening of the Dallas-Forth Worth Airport led to the creation of the world’s first acrylic spa.

Baja Spas, based in Tucson, Arizona, founded by Bernie Burba and Ed Price, began as pool builders in Naperville, Illinois, in 1960. Ed Price founded West Suburban Pools, a high-end concrete swimming pool builder, and Burba joined him in 1962.

When the pool builders finally had money in the bank, they expanded into other areas. In 1965 they formed Aqua-Gon, one of the nation’s first pool product distributors, then they opened several pool stores in the area.

In 1971, Baja began producing fiberglass and acrylic diving board stands. They were the first to use these two materials together in the pool business, and patented the process of vacuum forming fiberglass and acrylic. Burba and Price chose the name Baja because it was short and didn’t pigeon hole them into one product line. Also, it was one of their favorite areas to visit in Mexico.

Sales of diving boards jumped, and by 1972, Burba and Price sold their business ventures in Illinois. Burba moved to Tucson to dive into the diving board business. The same year they were joined by Randy Price, currently the President of Baja Spas.

The 1971 NSPI Show

Life changed forever after the 1971 NSPI annual show. Baja Products, displaying its diving boards, found itself next to a booth held by Riviera Spas. Few people stopped by to look at the new diving board design, but the Riviera Spa booth was packed. The two realized that spas represented a timely business venture.

They researched spas and discovered weaknesses in current design and manufacturing of spas and hot tubs. At the time, spas were made of fiberglass covered by gelcoat, similar to boats and pool slides. However, gelcoated fiberglass couldn’t stand the intense heat of spa water, the chemicals used for sanitation and water balance, or bright sunlight. “The gelcoat caused a lot of problems,” Randy Price says. Blistering and cracking were the main problems, in addition to delamination of the two materials, and fading from UV rays.

An Acrylic Spa is Born

Baja however, was already manufacturing an acrylic-fiberglass stand for its aluminum diving boards. “We believed in our acrylic. So we decided to manufacture a spa made of acrylic. Our competitors said it wouldn’t work,” Ed Price says.

baja-spas-logo

The company could not find a sheet of acrylic big enough for a spa. “Manufacturers at the time just weren’t making sheets that size,” sighs Burba. “Finally, we found the only one in the world” that could help them. It was Swedcast Acrylics (now Aristech) in California.  Swedcast had large sheets of acrylic on hand because it was making sheets for the monorail cars at the new Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. Swedcast sold Baja some of these same acrylic sheets, large enough (9′ square), to produce a vacuum formed spa shell.

Baja manufactured it first spas with three employees, and tested them by setting up a few spas in the intense Arizona sun. They also shipped their new acrylic spas to Illinois to test it out in a winter climate. “Those spas today still look like new,” Burba says proudly.

Selling Acrylic Spas

One of their first customers was Phil Horvath, president of Aqua-Gon, the distributor that Burba and Price had founded. Horvath says when he saw Baja’s first spa, it took his breath away. “It was gorgeous” he says. But it took some convincing to sell people on the idea of an acrylic spa.

Horvath held seminars for potential customers to sample the new acrylic spa. “We told them the acrylic was indestructible. We wanted to show them how strong the material was, so we hit it with a 2 x 4. It worked!” Horvath recalls.

Expansion in the 80’s

In 1981, Randy Price opened a new production plant in North Carolina for the company. “We can reach 70 percent of the U.S. population in a few days by truck from that location,” says Price. In 2005 they stopped manufacturing in Tucson, AZ but kept their corporate office and service department. Even now, they continue to ship from both locations keeping transit time for their hot tubs to a minimum. Sales are worldwide.baja-luv-tub

Baja is perhaps best known for a specialty item, a heart shaped spa called the Luv Tub. The company decided to develop this tub in 1974 after Ed Price was looking through a brochure for the Mt. Airy Lodge, a honeymoon resort in the Poconos. One of the suites had a heart shaped red bathtub made of concrete and tile. “Ed Price looked at the photo and said, ‘We can make that in acrylic,’” recalls Bernie. Soon after, the Luv Tub was in production.

After some of their spas were in place for 10 years now, some of the same trouble of blistering and delamination that had plagued fiberglass spas, now began to appear in the acrylic spa shells. Working with the boating industry, a solution was soon found by switching from polyester resins to ester resins. No more gas blisters!

Award Winners

Randy Price and Bernie Burba have received two prestigious awards in the spa industry. In 1992, Randy was honored with the John Silver Award recognizing his technical contribution to the industry in the development of vacuum formed spas. In 1987, Bernie was given the Eagle Award by the Spa and Tub Council of NSPI (now APSP) for his contribution and leadership in the industry.

Today and Tomorrow

Bernie Burba and Ed Price are now retired, but Baja Spas continues operations and a legacy of innovation. Credited with the first acrylic spas in production, they were ahead of their time (by about 10 years), and way ahead of competitors like Cal Spas and other copycat manufacturers. The cost of vacuum forming equipment, and a lack of knowledge, gave many trouble migrating to acrylic production.

Baja Spas continues to lead the field, not only with quality products, but with solid, feel good marketing. At Hot Tub Works, we wish them well in their bright future!

baja-spas-logos

 

XOXO;

Gina Galvin
Hot Tub Works

 

Hot Tub Pioneers – California Cooperage

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california-cooperage-adIn the late 50s, California was (and still is) an area of the country where a spirit of fun inventiveness took root. The first hot tubs were fashioned from wine barrels and olive vats – cut in half. During the 60s sales grew, but supplies of spare barrels and vats dwindled. By the time the 70s rolled around, California Cooperage had set up operations in SLO – San Luis Obispo, a cool central coast college town, near Morro Bay.

The first customers were friends, then friends of friends, and after a year, a mail order catalog was produced, and the company began shipping pre-fab hot tub kits of cedar and redwood, according to Beth Hamil, VP of Del Ozone, but on staff as lead engineer in the early years.

“The original fellow at California Cooperage was Cliff Branch, a marketing genius, in my opinion” says Beth. Cliff is given some credit to the sexy image of the California Hot Tub, and many of the ads had racy themes.cal-coop-ad-1979

According to Branch, “it all started when Playboy magazine did a centerfold of a “California” girl in a Hot Tub. Several other magazines and newspapers, more mainstream than Playboy, soon followed with their own articles and pictorials of the “Hot Tub lifestyle” taking place in California. And then an episode of the television show “Charlie’s Angels” featured Jaclyn Smith and Farrah Fawcett in a steamy hot tub, seemed to push it over the top.

“California Cooperage helped to nationally promote hot tubs. Cliff Branch was a wizard of getting onto national TV talk shows. He became an industry spokesperson. I remember him filming programs on “Good Morning America,” sitting in the hot tub with the hosts.”, from Bill Jaworski in the hot tub business at the time.

Evocative and provocative as it was at the time, the use of subtle sexuality was embraced by the public. As Branch told the San Bernadino Courier in 1978, “…there’s a new awareness among the middle class… Back-to nature, getting in touch with your feelings, nudity and sex.”

But the largest publicity stunt ever was probably the pool and spa show, held at Cow Palace, near San Francisco. Although no one admitted to hiring three young women to strip naked and climb into the California Cooperage hot tubs, many had a good idea who was behind it. It made regional and national news, with the commotion nearly shutting down the convention.

early-acrylic-hot-tub-by-california-cooperageCliff Branch partnered with Jim Smith and John King, two local investors, and built a 60,000 square foot sales and manufacturing building. The seventies were good for California Cooperage, and when the eighties were ushered in, California Cooperage began also making acrylic tubs, like the type being made by Jim and Jon Watkins in Vista, Ca – but still using a classic wood frame, barrel style.

In 1985 Coleman Spas bought the company for 10 million, and moved the operations to Chandler, Arizona. They soon stopped making the wood tubs altogether, due to sagging sales and cost and availability of expensive redwood materials. Maax purchased the company some years later, in 1998.

CLiff-branch-in-a-hot-tubCalifornia Cooperage hot tubs can still be purchased today, although they have come a long way from the original barrel tanks used for water storage or wine aging.  Digital controls and a spa pack have replaced wood stoves and a single spa jet. Molded acrylic seats have replaced redwood benches.

They can call it progress, but there’s nothing like a real wooden hot tub. And California Cooperage will ever be known as one of the first companies not only to mass produce a hot tub kit, but export a lifestyle to all parts of the country.

I don’t know what has become of Cliff Branch, I knew him years ago and thought him to be incredibly engaging – the right guy at the right time for a start-up industry like spas and hot tubs. Wherever you are, Cliff – I wish you well, and if you have anything to add to the article – send me an email!

 

– Jack

 

Hot Tub Pioneers – Len Gordon

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Our story begins here in southern California, in the late 60’s. Pool builders like Len Gordon (1925-1997) were adding attached spas to the gunite pools they were building.

spa-shell-patent-application-US-4142337-A--Interested in how he could simplify spa construction, and avoid the structural problems of adding a separate body of water – he and fellow builder Jack Stangle dreamed up drop-in fiberglass spa shells, similar to the hydrotherapy tanks that Jacuzzi was making.

Len Gordon saw potential in the inground spa market, and set up a manufacturing facility in a rented gas station; soon making several spa shells per day.

Len Gordon’s Fiberglass Spa Shells

The innovation and mass production of a drop-in fiberglass spa shell is often credited to Len Gordon Co., and soon after many other small manufacturers joined in, revolutionizing (or creating) the market for inground hot tubs. As Len told Spa and Sauna magazine in 1986, “The fiberglass shell was a contractor’s dream, all you had to do was dig a hole in the ground and you were just about finished. It cut the costs dramatically over gunite.”

Suddenly, an inground spa was within reach of nearly everyone, being that it was now much cheaper to buy and much simpler to install. Not too many years later, innovative manufacturers like Jacuzzi and Watkins began to create complete aboveground spas, which didn’t require digging a hole in the ground, or hiring lots of contractors.

Len Gordon’s Air Switches

I’m not old enough to remember, but in days gone by, the spa equipment was separate from the hot tub, and you had to climb out of the warm water to activate functions like jets, lights, heater, blower. There was no safe way to control this with electrical switches that were activated from inside the spa.

len-gordon-spa-controlUntil one day in 1974, while driving his truck to a job site; Len Gordon came up with the idea of an air switch, which could be operated from inside the tub. From a Len Gordon patent application:

“These air switches incorporate bellows which are compressed when the switch button is depressed thereby forcing air through a pneumatic tube to activate an electrical switch”

Len Gordon’s Legacy

Len Gordon company received other patents, one for an insulated high voltage switch which could be safely used from inside the spa, and in 1983 a top side control panel that integrated many air controls onto a single panel. The Len Gordon company discontinued spa manufacturing by 1980 and focused on their core products of spa switches and controls. They continued to operate for over 25 years, until Len’s passing in 1997.

len-gordon-ss2After Len’s death, the business carried on, buying a manufacturer of spa packs and controls, Brett Aqualine, in 1998. The Len Gordon company was sold by Len’s descendants in 2001 to Allied Innovations, where the business has carried on to this day.

One of the great “Hot Tub Pioneers”, Len Gordon was also a great guy to know or do business with – and is remembered fondly here in southern California, by many of the founders and friends of Hot Tub Works.

 

XOXO;

Gina Galvin
Hot Tub Works