A Familiar Face Returns to Pool Pro & Spa
Maria Gerrior is back as General Manager of Pool Pro & Spa and Chevy's Ice Cream
written by Pamela Johnson, Bulletin PublisherLong-time customers of John Murray's Pool Pro & Spa may remember Maria Gerrior (right), who worked at Pool Pro from 1996 to 2007. Maria left the pool business back then because her youngest child had started school and she felt the corporate world—and year-round employment— beckoning. She has returned as general manager of both Pool Pro & Spa and Chevy's Ice Cream.
So after 7 years away, what prompted her return? “I realized that corporate America is not all it’s cracked up to be,” Maria explained recently. “And I really missed the personal relationships I had developed with the customers—I missed watching their kids--and our employees, many of whom started here as kids—growing up, year after year.”
Maria explained how she'd been thinking about contacting Murray to see how things were going when, in one of those eerie happenings, he actually contacted her. He asked her if she'd consider coming back to manage both his pool store as well as his newer adjoining business, Chevy’s Ice Cream.
“I can’t do the same thing all of the time,” Maria noted. “I get bored. I love a challenge.” It's definitely a challenge that Maria is facing, and she has jumped right into the deep end of the pool—pun intended. Without missing a beat, Maria has picked up right where she left off, organizing, scheduling, ordering, paying bills—in short, managing the day-to-day issues facing two local small businesses.
“John is old-school. He has a traditional work ethic and values, which is admirable, but we also have to evolve with the times,” Maria explained. “The bad economy hit everyone hard, and people trying to save money turned to the internet or discount outlets [even though that usually ends up costing more in the long run because the chemicals are less potent than the ones we carry so you consume more of them]. In any event, it has had a negative impact on the pool business.”
“But you can’t sell service online, and that’s really what Pool Pro specializes in. We have several long-time employees who have extensive knowledge and experience as a result of working so many years in the [pool] business. I tell people ‘Owning a pool is simple, but the things that can go wrong or that people do to them can sometimes be complicated.’ We get it right more times than not—that’s important to us.”
“We do pool openings and closings, as well as on-site repairs; we fix pool robots and provide curb service for the people who shop locally and buy their pool chemicals from us. We also stock just about every part you can imagine, and, on the rare occasion that we don’t have the part a customer needs, we’ll get it for them within 2 days,” Maria noted. “In the off-season, we focus on spas.”
Gerrior has over 10 years of experience in the pool business and is especially knowledgeable about in-ground pools, having built a couple herself. “It used to be mostly men in the pool business, so on more than one occasion, I've had to say to a skeptic ‘Just because I'm a woman doesn't mean I don't know pools.’ ”
At Pool Pro, besides fine-tuning operating procedures and systems, Maria is focusing on growing the customer base and keeping current with industry trends and products. “We like to try the newest things before we recommend them to our customers,” she noted. Gerrior is also actively seeking in-ground pool customers.
Pool Pro has just expanded its service department to include weekly pool maintenance. “There are a lot of people who love having a pool but find that they are simply too busy to maintain them, so that’s where we come in,” Maria said. “We set them up with a service contract; then that’s one less thing they have to worry about.”
Maria, who thus far has been focusing more on the pool business, will be turning her sights on Chevy’s Ice Cream. She has lots of ideas for that business, too. “I want to offer birthday parties; ice cream and swimming—what’s better than that?” She is also going to be reaching out to the community to offer ice cream socials and fundraisers.
After I had spent an hour interviewing Maria, the word “dynamo” came to mind. She is a woman on a mission, but she”ll always take time with a customer. So the next time you're at Chevy's getting ice cream or at Pool Pro scheduling your pool closing, be sure to take a minute to drop by the office and say “welcome back!”