"We should have opened this 30 years ago," said owner Doug Wilson. "We were building pools but someone else was getting the cream off of it, ... and this way we're here, better able to serve our customers. That's the main reason we moved here -- and it gets our name out there. Ten years ago, everybody knew Wilson Pools because it was a smaller town, but now you've got people moving in and this gives us more exposure."
Having worked out of a warehouse in Rydal, Wilson Pools recently added a showroom and retail outlet for pool supplies, hot tubs and smokers at 101 S. Dixie Ave.
In his own words, Wilson began building pools in Michigan in a 1960 Corvair with a wheelbarrow strapped to the hood. His entry to the pool business was by coincidence after a friend gave his contact information to a salesman as a joke. When contacted, Wilson remembered a friend whose wife was looking at pools. An impromptu meeting was scheduled that same evening and a career was born.
"I didn't have any intention of building swimming pools," Wilson said. "We went over and met her about 11:30 [p.m.] and stayed there 'til about 1 [a.m.] and signed the contract and that was my first pool. I walked out of there with $1,000 in my pocket and I thought I was rich."
Wilson moved to Bartow County in 1973 to help a friend with a busy pool business and found success himself. He now lays claim to having built some 1,200 pools in north Georgia. He credits much of that success to loyal employees, many of whom have worked with him for more than 20 years.
A lot has changed in his industry with advances in technology and techniques but the most recent change in pool design was reverting back to fundamentals, eliminating plastic components that had gained popularity over the years. Wilson Pools now primarily builds a free-form, concrete pool with 10-inch walls, similar quality to that of basement construction. Advances in vinyl liner application has allowed them to do away with plastic components, including stairs and ladders.
"The vinyl liner pool we build is sort of an upgrade, this is the way it's going now and we're sort of ahead of the curve," Wilson said, noting they began building with this technique about 12 years ago. "It's an entirely different type of pool than what most people think of a vinyl pool. It's got free-form concrete walls, you don't see any plastic.
"We feel it's the best pool on the market. Other pools are still being built and they'll continue to be built but, after being in the industry as long as I have, I felt this was the best available."
While Wilson Pools builds all types and styles, including blown concrete Gunite pools, their free-form, concrete vinyl liner pools offer design elements of more expensive styles without all of the cost.
Another change that has come with time and technology has been maintenance costs and demands. Wilson Pools General Manager Lee Asbridge has put renewed effort into teaching pool owners about pool care techniques.
"Opening the store was kind of the fruition of a vision. We're trying to make it easier for folks. We had a pool school last week trying to educate folks, let them know it's not as hard as what it seems. You hear all the time, 'A pool in the backyard is like a money pit.' Or, 'It's nothing but work.' But that's just not so with all the automation," Asbridge said. "Educating people is a big push. Even when they come in just to get their water tested, one of our big things is to educate them on not just what to put in, but why."
Asbridge points to new equipment and techniques making care easier, including built-in timers, remote controls, freeze protection and improvements to automatic cleaners.
Wilson Pools offers a full line of chemicals, weekly service plans, liner repair, pool restoration and equipment replacement. The 101 S. Dixie Ave. location is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 770-386-3324 or visit www.wilsonpools.com.