Joe Vassallo has been a permanent fixture in the pool industry for the past three decades. As a youngster in Brooklyn, NY – he had dreams of becoming an architect and went to the prestigious Brooklyn Tech High School. Receiving some initial design training, he quickly realized he didn’t have the funds necessary to pursue a degree in architecture.
Putting those dreams aside he began a career running a wholesale distribution company for Tropicana orange juice. After selling his business and relocating to Las Vegas, Vassallo quickly realized that there was a different standard of living than the one he was accustomed to in New York.
Starting a Life in Las Vegas
“One of the attractions about Las Vegas, wasn’t the gambling or the nightlife, coming from a high-end real estate place like New York to Las Vegas, the money went pretty far. I was barely 40 years old and was able to sell my house and buy another house twice the size for half the cost and had a nicer living environment than living in the city,” said Vassallo.
“When I bought my house, like everyone else in Vegas, I wanted a swimming pool. I had a guy come out to design my pool and my design juices started to kick in,” said Vassallo, “I pretty much knocked him off his drafting table and started designing my pool.”
First Forays Into The Pool Industry
“The guy said, ‘Hey, you’re pretty good at this, you ought to talk to my boss.’,” said Vassallo, “turns out his boss was the owner of Tango Pools, Tony Tegano who has since passed away, was a little Italian guy like me from New York. I went to go meet him and we got along great and he hired me and that’s when I first got into the swimming pool industry.”
“Life seems to have a path that takes you where you are supposed to go.”Joe Vassallo – Paragon Pools
For Vassallo, this first foray into design meant getting back to his initial aspirations of being an architect when he was a student in Brooklyn. While this wasn’t architecture, he was feeding a creative impulse and found enjoyment in what he was doing. “It was great because it brought me back to what I wanted to do which was design, while not designing a building, it was fun designing pools. It was fun to meet people and talk about things that they were really excited about. People are happy to see you in this business, it’s not like you’re going to the dentist or something.”
Vassallo’s career inevitably saw him progress to become the General Manager of Paddock Pools, where he truly began to establish a name for himself in the Las Vegas market as a leading designer. Eventually, Vassallo would feel an impulse to leave that organization to start his own vision, Paragon Pools. “Truth be known, it was an owner absentee business. We were in Vegas and they were really located in Arizona. I thought it was time to get on my own. I was doing everything on my own anyway. I got a little nudge from my publicist at the time, Mary Vail who said you really need to open up your own company. With her encouragement, that’s what I wound up doing and we opened up Paragon Pools in 2001.”
Becoming a Top Pool Builder in the Las Vegas Market
The path to becoming a top builder in the Las Vegas market wasn’t always a linear one for Vassallo who can recall setbacks that came with the Great Recession in 2008. “Las Vegas went through a very rough period,” said Vassallo, “where we were having more foreclosures than anyplace else in the country. In order to survive that (time period), we started doing more of the remodeling and repair work. A lot of people, even if they wanted to leave their homes they couldn’t because they couldn’t get the value out of it and were probably underwater at best.”
A Make or Break Moment
The inability for homeowners to get full market value for their homes during the Great Recession meant that many opted to remodel their existing pool and stay in their homes. A sophomore pool company at the time, Paragon Pools was able to ride out the recession doing remodels. This was a make-or-break time period that saw many seasoned builders leave the industry. What followed would be a contraction in the industry that would last for the next five years. “The remodeling and repair business became kind of a lifeline for us and then finally we moved out of that bad time into some better times. Right now things are just going through the roof. I’ve got way more business than I can handle.”
Unprecedented Demand for Inground Pools
Joe has been in the industry for decades and has seen bull markets and bear markets. The interest in swimming pools has been white-hot the last two years. We asked Vassallo if he has ever experienced anything like this and if he could predict what was coming next to which he responded, “In 30 years, I’ve never seen anything like this. I can only guess, I’m not an economics expert but I think it was a confluence of several things,” said Vassallo, “number one, when Covid hit, manufacturing started to dwindle. Plants were either closing or just running skeleton crews, and transportation stopped.”
“Look at the other side of that,” said Vassallo, “Mom, Dad, and the kids are home. They’ve been talking about getting a boat or something for the last few years and just never pulled the trigger. Now everybody is home and looking at an empty backyard in 100-degree weather and said ‘you know what, we can’t spend money going out to dinner or traveling on vacation, let’s spend it in the backyard.”
A Paradox of Buying Habits Leads to Booming Economy For Pool Builders
The paradox in how a pandemic could lead to a booming economy for the pool industry is one Vassallo feels can be explained, “Luckily everyone was still working. Most people were able to work from home given all the new technology we have. There were still those discretionary dollars available and they were able to pull the trigger.”
The situation has created a spike in demand that builders have not been able to fully capitalize on. “We have this downturn in supply and a huge increase in demand,” said Vassallo. As a thought leader in the pool & spa industry, we asked Vassallo if he thought the industry was doing all it could to capitalize on demand right now to which he responded, “I would say we’re probably far from that, I’m sure everyone else is probably like me. The resources just aren’t there to fully capitalize on demand. Manufacturers are at their limit, they just can’t produce enough. I know for me, I’m getting five times more leads than I can handle.”
Pool Industry Unable to Fully Capitalize on Demand
While labor shortages still prevail around the United States, Vassallo says finding enough available bodies still remains a problem. “I just can’t find the people and resources to be able to capture that five times increase, I can’t even capture it three times,” said Vassallo. The limitations are the materials and labor, it’s not there to support what you can design and sell.”
A White Hot Pool Market is a Good Problem to Have
While supply and demand issues still remain a problem, Joe Vassallo says it is a better problem to have than the one he experienced a decade ago during the Great Recession. “When there was no one looking to buy a pool.”
Setting Expectations With Customers
There is another problem, however, and that is setting expectations with customers. Given the nature of the sheer influx of consumers interested in a pool versus the amount of labor and materials to actually build them, a backlog is forming. Managing those expectations to capitalize on momentum is essential during this time.
A sentiment to which Vassallo agrees, “The first thing I tell potential customers is that I’m probably not going to be able to get back to you for at least six weeks. That’s before I can even give them a design or proposal and in some cases, it’s gone further than that.”
Passing the Torch
As Paragon Pools moves into its third decade of existence, the milestone is a poignant one for Vassallo who has been slowly making the transition to take a step back. Joe Vassallo Jr. who recently was named PHTA Builder of the Year, is taking a more active role at the helm of operations for Paragon Pools. It is a point of pride for Vassallo Sr. (who received the Builder of the Year Award in 2012) and has been grooming his son over the last decade in preparation for handing over operations to him.
“You have to be very very lucky. First, I’ve always had a very good relationship with my son. I coached him through little league,” said Vassallo, “We did a lot of things together all the way through. When he was in high school during the summers I used to take him out with me and just help me go measure a yard. He would hold the end of the tape while I went around and measured it.”
The process of becoming immersed in that world and learning the trade would take years, but Joe Vassallo says that his son began demonstrating leadership qualities that gave him the confidence he could step back.
“Little by little he started to get more and more involved. I don’t want to say that I pushed him that way but I did not discourage him in any way,” said Vassallo, “he started to demonstrate some talent and I helped him nurture that talent and as time went by he became one of my best designers and salespeople. Obviously, the next step was to run a company. He took to all of that and embraced it and enjoys it.”
Vassallo Sr. now spends the majority of his time working on commercial projects and devoting energy to a swim program the company has developed to help local children in their community. The Float Like a Duck program developed by Paragon Pools is something the family is passionate about and is proud to be able to give back to the Las Vegas community.
Establishing a Succession Plan
Putting a succession plan in place for Joe Vassallo Jr. to direct day-to-day operations has been what has allowed Vassallo to focus on his passion projects. Aside from receiving a major acknowledgment of achievement this year, operations have been running as smooth as ever and Vassallo Sr. seems pleased.
Paragon’s reputation as an elite builder continues to grow and as a result, the jobs are getting more complicated, more over the top, and more expensive. “There was a time where we were doing maybe 150-160 pools a year. Now, it’s more like 50 or 60 but they’re much higher-end and more complicated than they were before.”
That type of high-end work is right in the wheelhouse for Joe Vassallo Jr. who is now firmly at the helm guiding Paragon Pools into a second generation that has become synonymous with setting the highest standard in the industry. Clearly, the apple did not fall far from the tree.
Listen to our entire interview with Joe Vassallo Sr. on the Pool Magazine podcast
Financing a Pool & Outdoor Home Improvement Projects
Pool builders often wonder what the best way to originate and answer questions when a buyer is interested in financing their swimming pool and other outdoor home improvement projects. The answer to this question is always a little more complicated than it seems.
You Should Pitch Financing, To A Point
On one hand, you as the builder want to be as knowledgeable and helpful as possible. Also, it can be advantageous to quote a low monthly payment rather than a high project cost. On the other hand, you don’t want to give out incorrect information or be perceived as giving a “bait and switch” offer. It’s a very similar situation to what companies who offer swimming pool financing deal with daily from borrowers with questions about pools.
The Financing Conversation – Dos and Don’ts
It’s common for people seeking financing to ask about average prices or whether the project seems too expensive, etc. Greg Powell, President of Viking Capital, has worked with pool builders for over 25 years and explained why the only answer to questions along that line is “you should discuss that with your builder”.
“The reason we take this position is to make sure we don’t muddy the waters or give out incorrect information that makes the builder’s job selling the project more difficult. The same applies on the builder’s end when buyers want to know rates, terms, and payments. These questions are truly impossible to answer correctly without having their credit report in your hands and full knowledge of underwriting.”
Estimating Loan Terms & Payments Can Backfire
We live in a world today where everyone believes that they know “my credit score”. They see it on apps, on credit card statements and more. The problem is, that individuals have A LOT of credit scores. There are three major reports, but each has several versions. The scores can vary by 100 points or more depending on which report the lender is using. Also, some loan programs allow for co-borrowers and co-signers which may enable borrowers to have more and better loan options.
This conversation about financing can be very awkward for a builder and it could make matters worse. The worst thing is to assume their score is what they say, guess at a rate and term, and take a stab at a payment. When that borrower then applies for financing, they have a pre-set idea of what rate and payment they are looking at. When credit comes back and it’s not a 780, but rather a 724, that borrower is in for a shock. It would be just like us telling borrowers that an average pool is 50-75k. It’s such a wild guess that it’s better not being mentioned.
Leverage Your Financing Partner
Viking Capital offers builders a quick and reliable alternative to offer their customers. When customers apply with us they are contacted by a loan consultant within a few hours for a free loan consultation. It won’t hurt their credit and there is no obligation to move forward. During this consultation, they are given pool loan options specific to their needs and qualifications. Yes, they’ve waited a day or so, but the loan options they got are accurate and exact. The guesswork has been removed from the equation and the customer will be ready to meet with their builder with a confirmed budget.
Cajun Comfort Redefined – Brandon Miller
When looking at luxury pools from around the country, we’re always looking for pools that break outside the paradigms of the norm. The pool we’re highlighting here is a perfect example that redefines what cajun comfort is supposed to feel like in Louisiana. Gone are the days of traditional brick coping and white plaster interiors. These days, sophisticated homeowners are definitely looking at something a little more high-end.
Brandon Miller is an award-winning designer from Breaux Bridge, LA that understands this shift in mentality. He has been slowly making a name for himself in the Louisiana market over the past decade and has his fingers firmly on the pulse of what the client wants. Coming from a family of pool builders, Miller was immersed in the world of pool construction from a young age. Following his uncle on various job sites, Miller picked up the trade early.
Picking Up The Pool Installation Trade
“I got in the field of installing fiberglass pools with my uncle,” said Miller, “I watched how he did things and shadowed him as a kid. As I got older, I was put in the role of doing things and during the summer months I’d be doing plumbing, installing, and so forth.”
After graduating high school, Miller went to work for his uncle full-time. He spent the next year of his life installing pools. At the same time a young man, he saw his peers making great money in the booming oil industry.
Facing a recession, and little opportunity, Miller felt he might be missing out on a better life and switched roads a few times in his career path. From working in the oil fields to being a captain running boats, Miller tried his hand in a few different vocations.
Ultimately, the recession ended and Miller would return to the pool industry once again in 2010. “My wife and I thought we should start our own pool company,” said Miller, “at the time, there wasn’t nearly as much competition as there is now. Seems like everybody is trying to be a pool builder these days, but back then there was only a handful. We contacted Leisure Pools which is the manufacturer that had been dealing with my uncle for years. At the time they didn’t have a permanent dealer in this area. Being that I had a relationship with my uncle, they opened their arms to me.”
Hurdles Getting Started
However, it wouldn’t be that simple. On the tail-end of the worst economic crisis since the Depression, Louisiana would experience the Deepwater Horizon explosion which killed 11 people and released the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The impact to fisheries, tourism, real estate would have an economic impact in the billions. While technically in the pool business, making that first sale would prove to be a challenge during that time. “We had started this business but hadn’t sold our first project yet, so I went back in the oil fields and just used my captain’s license to try and make more money in preparation for that first sale.”
Getting That First Pool
That first sale would inevitably come, and the rewards for persevering would be worth it. The homeowner wanted a fiberglass pool with a tanning ledge similar to a resort pool they had been to in Mexico. It was a unique challenge because back in 2011, fiberglass pool shell manufacturers didn’t really have as many tanning ledge models available. “I looked at the couple and said, ‘I think we can make it happen’. We went on to win the Masters with that project and the rest is history,” said Miller.
The path to becoming an award-winning pool designer had taken years, but as Miller progressed into more high-end custom pools, he became a top builder of luxury gunite pools. These days he works with some of the most discerning homeowners in his local area. Miller has become an expert at helping homeowners envision and actualize their dreams of the ideal inground pool and outdoor living environment.
Needs & Wants in a Luxury Inground Pool & Backyard
When a homeowner wants a luxury pool, quite frequently Miller is the one they turn to with their vision. “What I tell customers is, come to us with some ideas. We want to know the things that they like when they’re looking at pictures (online). Things like fire (features) or a tanning ledge. They may like a sunken seating area, but just come to us with a list of a few things that you like,” said Miller, who described his process with clients on establishing their list of must-haves for a resort-style pool.
When trying to price cost a luxury pool and outdoor living environment, much of that comes from identifying the size and type of pool being built. This is in conjunction with the features, amenities, and materials being requested by the client.
“There’s a list of the must-haves and a list of the wants. It’s easier to take away than it is to add on, so we’ll typically design something over the top and then we let their budget dictate what we do. It’s just easier I find than trying to upsell them.”
Cajun Comfort – Brandon Miller on what luxury homeowners want
We asked Miller what features homeowners are requesting the most in a luxury pool these days. “Fire and water, without a doubt,” said Miller, “It’s what I’m being asked for over and over and over. Everybody wants fire and water. Whether it’s just a firepot or a firepot with water coming out of it, they want it. We actually just did a fountain with the fire feature in the water so the fire was burning on the water. Fire is definitely one of those must-haves for people.”
A Track Record for Award Winning Pools
With a track record for building award-winning pools, Miller is no stranger to collaborating with some of the elite in the industry when it comes to satisfying his client’s goals for an over-the-top backyard. That clearly is the story here, with his latest project which is turning heads and helping set a new standard for luxury outdoor living in Louisiana.
“This project was actually a repeat customer,” said Miller, “ten years to the month from when we finished their last project we had started this one. We stayed in touch through the years. They said they were going to build another house and that we’d have the opportunity to build them something cool again.”
The homeowner gave Miller and his team free range to come up with a unique pool design that would wow them. The client had established they would be in their forever home and that they wanted something that truly catered to their lifestyle.
“The first one was really an over-the-top project at the time. It had that huge fiberglass pool with the tanning ledge, so they really thought outside of the box on the first project,” said Miller, “the second project was just really taking it to another level to do something on the gunite side where the design is really free.”
Consulting With The Elite of the Pool Industry
For the design of the project, Miller opted to bring in award-winning pool and outdoor living designer Shane LeBlanc. “Shane knocked it out of the park on the design and our team really it out of the park on the construction aspects of it,” said Miller, “I wasn’t going to shortchange them on the design. Shane’s a Louisiana guy and I’ve always admired his design work.”
“All of the decking is porcelain, we didn’t want anything traditional,” explained Miller, “we just took it a step further because we didn’t want any coping overhung. It was a real challenge with elevation changes. We had to get really creative with making sure water was going to shed away from the patio.”
A Deeper Dive into this Cajun Queen
Yards that look this way are atypical for Lousiana which has very flat topography. This would mean getting creative for the construction of the sunken seating area.”We were fortunate enough that the sunken seating area of the pool had enough fall from the house pad being built up high enough. We were able to get drainage out to it without having to have some kind of pump – it’s just gravity fed.”
“On the design we have a vanishing edge wall. Once again, our yards are flat but were able to cut down some of the yard where if you’re in the house looking out at the pool area, the line of sight doesn’t let you see the catch basin,” said Miller.
It’s subtle nuances like this which are well-thought-out design elements demonstrating forethought into what the overall client experience would be. “On the walkway pedestals, we bounced around all kinds of ideas. “
“Keefe Duhon from Concrete Evolutions molded all of those concrete steps like a shoebox lid,” explained Miller, “it’s all one piece and mortared down so there are no grout joints or lines. There is an anti-slip texture on top of them so whenever they’re wet there’s grip to them. They really did a fantastic job.”
Convenience and reliability is a big factor on a project of this scale, as is ease of maintenance. “The equipment on the pool is completely Hayward,” said Miller, “there are multiple filters and pumps, heaters, and cooler units. The OmniLogic controller is really is user-friendly for them. As detailed as the project is, we had it programmed so that at a single push of a button on their phone it could do whatever they want.”
For the construction of the pool, Miller made the decision to bring in industry experts to help him achieve the functionality he was looking for in this custom build. “I follow a lot of the guys on Ask The Masters on social media and brought in Paolo Benedetti to do the hydraulics on the pool. It’s just spot on,” said Miller, “he and I spoke a few times, and first they did the construction drawing for us, and then we went to them for the hydraulics. It was just awesome to work with him.”
Benedetti of Aquatic Technology consults on high-end projects all over the world is one of the foremost respected experts in the pool industry. “Even though they were in California and I was in Louisiana it was easy, everything they provided was detailed where I never had to go back and ask questions.”
Drawing inspiration from what the experts on Ask The Masters have accomplished, Miller was eager to bring professionals who could help elevate this project to what the homeowner wanted their backyard to be. “Following and watching a lot of those guys and what they do on the west coast is just what the homeowner wanted in Louisiana and I think it worked.”
Having the right talent to design and build the project as well as the right budget are essential in delivering a truly custom-tailored backyard. “Our overall goal with this project, was to do something that hadn’t been done in the Lafayette market or hadn’t been done to that scale,” said Miller, “lucky for us, the clients were on board for all of that and made it really easy.”
Wanto learn more about this project? Listen to our entire interview with Brandon Miller of Cajun Pools & Spas on the Pool Magazine podcast.
Building Pools In The City, With Manhattan Pool Builder – Bob Blanda
If you’re going to build pools in the busiest city on Earth, you need your head on a swivel to say the least. Recently we had a chance to catch up with Manhattan pool builder, Bob Blanda of Mill Bergen Pools. He has been performing pool construction in the Big Apple for over three decades and is one of the premier pool builders in New York City today.
The Journey to Becoming a Manhattan Pool Builder
The journey to becoming a high-end Manhattan builder was a long one and success didn’t happen overnight for Blanda who started off like many doing pool service. He began his first forays into the industry as a teenager in Brooklyn. It was in 1986, after finishing with a bachelor’s degree in business management that Blanda would form his second company Manhattan-based Mill Bergen Pool Center. Today he holds the certifications of Certified Building Professional (CBP), Certified Service Professional (CSP), and Certified Pool Operator (CPO). Blanda also serves as president of the Northeast Spa and Pool Association (NESPA), where he now serves as President and sits on the board of directors for the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance.
It’s safe to say that Blanda has made a name for his firm during that time span as a trusted pool construction company of choice in New York City. An industry thought leader and seasoned veteran pool builder, Blanda knows what it takes to execute a pool project where most people in their right mind wouldn’t even attempt to park a car.
A Game of Traffic & Logistics
“Most streets do not allow parking and if they do there is a car in every spot,” said Blanda, “so staging a job probably means sending a truck in with at least one extra person who is going to sit there parked in front of a fire hydrant or be circling until a spot actually opens up.”
It’s a frustrating game of logistics that Blanda says is one of the necessary evils of doing business in Manhattan. “Once in a while, you get lucky. There’s a spot two or three blocks away where you can park the vehicle,” said Blanda, “but then whenever you need to get something, you’re walking back to the truck to bring it to the job site.”
Simply traveling around the city itself can be daunting, as the congestion in Manhattan is ranked #1 for worst traffic in the United States. With drivers experiencing an average of 102 hours delayed each year, Blanda confirmed this adds another dimension of complexity to building pools. “If there’s traffic, you can sit there for an hour and a half waiting just to go around the block,” said Blanda.
“Trying to get cement delivered to the city means you have to get 4-5 parking spots cleared,” he explained, “What we do is wait until they have alternate side parking for the street sweepers and that is the day we’ll schedule cement.”
This cat and mouse game of scheduling cement deliveries around the New York City Sanitation Department is how Blanda is able to ensure that he will have the spots necessary for delivery. “As soon as the street sweeper comes, we shove our trucks right in those spots,” said Blanda, “so we can only have really one day a week where we can pour cement. Otherwise, you go through the whole process of trying to get the street shut down.”
A Set of Unique Challenges Comes With Building Pools in New York City
The challenge of dealing with all this time spent waiting to get to the job site and find parking means an abbreviated amount of time laborers can actually work on pools. “We probably only get six hours out of the day (to work),” explained Blanda, “even though our men left at 6:30 in the morning and leave the job site at 4:30 or 5:00 o’clock in the afternoon. Depending on the type of job it is, a lot of these jobs shut early. “
A new level of complexity Blanda may soon be facing is the recent changes to legislation that allow for a new toll system designed to alleviate traffic and generate revenue for the city. “Now they’re adding congestion pricing,” said Blanda, “I think it’s pretty close to being put through where they charge like $30-$40 dollars per day per vehicle just to get into the city. This, on top of the gas, tolls, and all the other expenses.”
Aside from these new concerns, Blanda says the requirements for building pools in New York City are more stringent and regulated. “All of the rules that go on everywhere else are enhanced in Manhattan. Having your OSHA-30, hard hats, and the proper gear (are required).”
The security around some of these job sites is often higher than typically found in your normal residential pool construction project. “Walking into a job site means having to sign in, having to sit on safety meetings. Some of the jobs are so secure they’re using retina eye scans to get in and out. If it’s a high-end residential project, there is probably a security guard sitting at a desk in the hall of the house,” explained Blanda.
The challenges of building high-end swimming pools in the Big Apple don’t end there. “There is a lot of difficulty working with other trades,” said Blanda, “if you’re working on a job like that it’s often in the middle of the construction of the home or building. You’re contending for use of the elevator, other trades with materials in your way, so it’s not like you’re alone there and given the exclusivity to be the only person working there.”
Adapting to the Pandemic & a Covid-19 World
New York City was one of the hardest-hit major metropolitan areas impacted by Covid-19. Blanda, like many throughout the pool industry, was relieved not to be under mandatory quarantine during the initial outset of the pandemic.
“Covid created a lot of difficulties, we were fortunate that the association worked very hard to get the swimming pool business to become essential,” said Blanda, who explained that distancing workers in trucks, and assigning more vehicles to job sites became necessary along with instituting face masks and other safety protocols.
Blanda had no qualms about telling us how scary those first initial months of the pandemic were. Still, and quite admirably, Mill Bergen Pools has managed to prevail through the pandemic and is busier than ever. “As we say in the pool business, you have to be a Marine and overcome and adapt. We made it work and now everyone is vaccinated.”
Building Pools For The 1% of Manhattan
In planning high-end projects for the 1% clientele in Manhattan that are building inground swimming pools, Blanda said that quite frequently it’s the architects themselves who are his clients. “They would call us up and ask about an inground pool and I would go out there to find that quite often I’m not going to the customer, I’m going to an architectural office.”
One interesting story he shared with us about building luxury pools in Manhattan involved a smaller pool project in a Brownstone that had been years in the making. It was a simple pool project in terms of size and shape, Blanda explained the initial challenge that came with coming up with a pool concept that would go in the basement of the building.
“This is a house that is adjoining another home that has a shared foundation between the two. (The general contractor) had to get permission to excavate in the basement. Even though we were only excavating six feet, they had to underpin the entire foundation to bring it down at least a couple of feet lower than our pool so that there is no movement or undermining of the foundation.”
A Case Study on Your Average New York City Pool Build
The structural engineering involved made it an interesting case study of just how difficult any city project can become. Simply coming to an agreement with the neighbor would involve multiple parties. “In order to do that, there were negotiations between the general contractor, a lawyer, and the neighbor,” said Blanda, “the neighbor ended up extracting a sizeable 5 digit amount from them to give them permission to build a pool in the house next door. On top of that, they had to install a special instrument to measure movement to ensure there was no movement in the foundation during the construction.”
Coming up with a design that would please the client didn’t come without its own challenges said Blanda, “The pool started out being above the ground, it was going to be a 5×6 plunge pool with a 5×8 spa next to it. However, there were going to be four steps. In a basement with a ten-foot ceiling that was not ideal. After some back and forth we determined that this was not the epitome of what they would like. Through some diligence on the general contractors’ part, he was able to convince the neighbor to allow them to dig. They did all this underpinning and built a concrete vault for us and we ended up building them a 12×20 so the client got a decent-sized pool.”
The project does have all the modern creature comforts that classify it as a custom luxury inground pool. Some of the amenities include an all-glass tile interior, an in-floor cleaning system, and a SwimStream so that the client can swim against the current to exercise. The project includes LED lighting, a motorized cover, and ozone UV pool sanitizing equipment.
Blanda, who has had a long career consulting with architectural firms on inground swimming pool projects explained that quite frequently he’s not dealing with the end-user, and he’s not selling the customer. In fact, it is the architectural firm that is planning the design space who is making the determination of which firm to hire. Blanda’s seniority and expertise in the pool industry ensure that Mill Bergen Pools receives the lion’s share of referrals for high-end work in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
When acting as a consultant Blanda will often manage the general planning and assist an architectural firm in quarterbacking the pool phase of a project. In other instances, his construction firm Mill Bergen is actively engaged in building the pool as well as the surrounding pool area. His work in both capacities has helped grow the pool service side of his business which is conveniently located a short drive away from Manhattan. “We’re 15 minutes away from the city, so we can get a service truck in. Most people if they have to travel 2 hours it’s not really desirable, so there aren’t so many companies that want to come into the city,” said Blanda.
Listen to the Interview
Our one-on-one discussion with Bob Blanda covered many different topics, listen to our entire interview on the Pool Magazine podcast.
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