This family vacation to the Dominican Republic was to celebrate the official opening of our first storefront location over 20 years ago, when I still had hair.
My name is Steve Anonby. In the mid 90s I was serving on pastoral staff at a non-denominational church on the UBC campus while working toward my master’s degree. During that time, I began selling used hot tubs in my spare time, as a hobby to support my ministry habit (nobody enters ministry for the money).
Being raised as a missionary kid and having traveled to many countries as an adult, it has always bothered me how people in North America throw things away instead of repairing them, so I found it fun and satisfying to salvage and recycle unwanted hot tubs.
At first it was pretty sketchy. I’m sure I sold a lot of duds and lemons because I didn’t really know what I was doing and frankly, I didn’t worry too much about what happened once it left my property. Looking back, I feel cringy about this stage of the game but I try to justify it by considering it to be the inevitable first awkward step toward better things to come.
As my knowledge grew, my contacts increased and my reputation improved, this pastime gradually developed into a respectable little business which my wife and I could take pride in.
But let’s start at the beginning. I remember shopping for my first hot tub in the early 1990s. I wanted to shop intelligently and make a wise choice, but the more research I did, the more confused I became because every place I went seemed to have a different spin on what makes a hot tub “good”. I became frustrated and put the whole hot tub thing on hold.
Then one day, I met someone who was in the business of repairing hot tubs. He spoke candidly about his experience with the different brand names. He gave me the kind of inside information that’s not available to the general public, and gave me excellent advice about what to look for and what to avoid.
He explained that since most consumers don’t know much about hot tubs, they usually make their choice based solely on spec sheets, cosmetics, price, and showroom sales pitch, and he described how each of those things can be very misleading. He helped me understand why certain hot tubs were overrated while others were “hidden gems”. He made me realize that the things that matter most are rarely mentioned on the showroom floor or on promotional materials.
I thought, “wow, this is gold for hot tub shoppers!” Based on what I learned from this person who worked with used spas every day, I was able to make an informed decision when it came to buying a hot tub for my family. Armed with reliable information and practical knowledge, I was then able to help a friend of mine make an excellent choice when he was in the market for a used tub.
While we were shopping around, it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to start a used hot tub business. While used car lots abounded, not a single used hot tub lot existed. I saw the need for a place where people could buy used hot tubs with confidence. At the time I didn’t realize that there was a good reason for that – used hot tubs are a pain in the… neck to deal with. They are hard to find, dreadful to handle and tend to break down and/or spring leaks if they are moved.
In spite of the challenges and risk, I was intrigued by the “used hot tubs” concept as a niche market, so I began buying, fixing up and reselling hot tubs as a home-based business, with the help of some friends and family. Sometimes we came out ahead, and other times we lost money. But as we kept doing it, we began to gain experience, refine our skills and acquire equipment that made the job faster, easier and eventually, profitable.
As the family business grew, it got too big to run as a home-based venture. So, we rented an off-site warehouse, officially registered the company, and got a proper business license in 1997.
I decided to take formal training on hot tub repair to become a certified technician, and hired an assistant. Since we had all the tools, parts, equipment & expertise necessary, it only made sense to start a repair shop. So we did.
In the beginning, we picked up cheap “fixer-uppers” from the classified ads (remember the Buy & Sell newspaper?), and refurbish them when things got slow at the repair shop. But through trial and error, we soon found out that if a hot tub needed major work, it was best to retire it with dignity rather than trying to unnaturally extend its life, with some very rare exceptions. As we gained more experience, we learned what brands/models were worth fixing and which ones to avoid like the plague. There exist no hot tub courses to teach those thing – that kind of knowledge can only be learned through the school of hard knocks.
When we outgrew the warehouse, we decided to go all out and we opened an official retail storefront location on Fraser Highway in the Langley Township. That’s when we began selling new hot tubs as well. We had lots of staff, several vehicles and a huge inventory. Then we opened another place in Langley City.
But it all got to be too much for us – my wife and I discovered that we weren’t cut out for managing a big company. Having no business training or experience, we were bad at it, and didn’t enjoy it. In spite of higher profits, it wasn’t worth the stress, administration and staffing headaches. So, we closed our storefront location and went back to selling a few hot tubs a month out of our property.
Unlike many business owners, my wife and I weren’t obsessed with money. Of course, we hated being poor (been there, done that), but many studies have shown that once a person earns enough to live comfortably, more money no longer raises their happiness level. For us, the venture was more about freedom and flexibility than wealth and possessions, so we chose to keep things small, simple and manageable.
But it’s hard to keep a good thing down. We slowly started growing again – we couldn’t help it. As things developed, I began to dread the thought of trying to run a big, complex business. The solution this time was to find a professional manager and hire capable experienced staff instead of trying to do everything myself with people I already knew. Hiring professional help made all the difference, and things run much smoother now.
In spite of us growing to be one of the most popular hot tub businesses in BC, we’ve managed to preserve our laid-back vibe and down-to-earth personality. Rather than cast a wide net in an attempt to draw in everybody and anybody, we like to think of ourselves as catering to the more discerning shopper – we tend to attract the kind of people who do a lot of research before buying. In fact, if you’re still reading this, it probably means you’re more literate than the average Joe (flattery, flattery)!
Here’s something better than flattery: As an experiment, just for fun, to see how many people bother to read this long-winded self-indulgent page in its entirety, I’ll give you a $100 credit toward any upgrades, accessories, supplies or products we offer (valid only if you purchase a hot tub from us). To claim this hidden offer, please print this paragraph and present it to us before we fill out the purchase agreement (bringing it later doesn’t count).
We’re excited about how things continue to evolve. I take pride in what we’ve created and find satisfaction in offering what most people seem to consider a valuable service.
As we continue to develop and progress, we are open to suggestions and advice, and we invite any comments or insights you may have to help us improve.
Thank you for taking the time to read our story.