New ownership brings previous employees on board with a shared vision for a prosperous future
By Michelle L. Cramer
Dominic Radocchia had a vision when he opened Connecticut-based Namco in 1962 — a vision that spanned more than four-decades. His family-run pool and spa retail business grew to more than 30 stores and a loyal customer base by 2005 when Radocchia sold the company to a private equity firm, staying on as CEO and his brother, Jack, as head buyer.
Unfortunately, the Radocchias left soon after as the investors’ approach to the business no longer aligned with their vision. Following the economic downturn of 2008, Namco was in bankruptcy proceedings by 2013 and one of the secured creditors stepped in to run the company from 2014 to 2017, closing a number of Namco stores during that time frame.
In 2014, Jim Martyniuk, then general manager of purchasing at Ontario-based Pioneer Family Pools (his family’s company), started paying attention to Namco’s potential, but the stars didn’t align until this year.
As of January 2018, a group of Canadian pool professionals associated with Pioneer Family Pools of Ontario and Club Piscine Super Fitness of Quebec became the new owners of Namco Pools, purchasing some of the former assets, including the name. And the excitement is palpable from Martyniuk, now Namco CEO, when you speak with him.
“[Namco’s] business model just kind of fit what we do up in Canada,” Martyniuk says. “It allowed us to make a play and expand our operations into the U.S. On top of that, Namco still has a great name out there and a big customer following in the northeast. Overall it just seemed like the perfect fit.”
“Our current focus is getting our arms around these 16 [remaining] stores and stabilizing them,” Martyniuk says. The new owners are making changes in order to do that: providing competitive pricing, carrying a wider range of products (including above and in-ground pool products, pool chemicals and Jacuzzi hot tubs), expanding product lines Namco carried in the past like patio furniture and gazebos, and making sure that all of the stores are in tip-top shape. Namco’s website is also getting a makeover, providing a robust e-commerce platform to enhance the customer’s shopping experience.
“Most importantly, we’re focusing on consistency throughout all locations, with a large emphasis on properly training and adding new staff,” Martyniuk says. “We want customers dealing with more qualified professionals when they walk into Namco stores.” To the new owners, this means having vendors work with managers and staff to educate them better on the products offered, as well as training staff on how to better handle customer issues and coach the customer along during and after the buying process.
Martyniuk and his business partners took this transition one step further and started hiring back previous Namco employees — and not just those that left in the last couple of years, but even 10 or more years ago — from cashiers to upper management. “We just picked up the phone and started calling them,” Martyniuk says. “After we explained our background and vision for the company, a lot of them were eager to join. They’ve seen it, they’ve lived it, they’ve helped create it and they’re definitely on board.” So far, of the 280 employees companywide, 106 are previous employees that recently came back.
Looking toward the future, Martyniuk and his business partners hope to open more stores again. They also want to provide even more product categories and offerings and may even expand into the in-ground pool market, as well as focusing on aftermarket products like replacement liners, safety covers, parts, equipment and chemicals. He says they plan to look into service and installation as well.
“From there, I’m looking to take that model we built and try to expand it through the northeast,” Martyniuk says. “With the fundamental changes we’re making to the business — new store look, new team, new products and new website — we’re pretty hopeful that we can get Namco back to the juggernaut it once was in the pool retail industry.”