A pool company in a Chicago suburb strives to maintain business as usual during COVID-19 By Michelle L. Cramer
Fifty miles northwest of Chicago, the small suburb of Marengo, Illinois, houses a Dollar General, two gas stations, a small family-owned grocery store and the offices of J.F.Y. Pools. Since a shelter-at-home mandate was enacted by the Illinois governor March 21 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Marengo looks more like a ghost town, says Nikki Ruble, co-owner of J.F.Y. Pools, adding that the strain on the town, and surrounding area, is obvious.
J.F.Y. Pools is still operating normally for the time being, providing 24-hour service, seven days a week for the Chicago area. “Although a good portion of our business is service, we have not yet seen the influx of these calls due to our climate,” Ruble says. “Our season had started off strong and early with building and installation of in-ground pools and, though they are overwhelmed, so far our suppliers are keeping up with shipping and inventory. The permit process has mostly moved to online now, which has made our lives at J.F.Y. Pools a little bit easier to manage.”
J.F.Y. teamed up with the local Chamber of Commerce and utilized social media to get the word out to current customers, future customers and the community as whole on what is going on with the business, emphasizing that J.F.Y. is taking precautions to keep everyone safe and healthy. “Being as Homeland Security deemed the pool and spa industry as essential,” Ruble says, “we want to make sure that our clients and employees alike feel safe and comfortable with the new way we carry out business.”
Timing is of the essence now, Ruble adds, as all customers are also advised that installs are on a first come, first served basis, with limited capacity during the next few months. But she remains hopeful that there is still business to be had. “We feel that most people will be staying home for the summer and will be utilizing and buying pools for their backyards, as vacations and family getaways may be out of the question this season,” she says.
J.F.Y. Pools has three permanent employees year-round, with up to 10 employees during peak season. The only way the company will close during this time is if an employee or owner were to get sick, Ruble says. Specifically, if co-owner Sean Ruble fell ill, Nikki Ruble says it would be next to impossible to run the business without him (though, she adds, they do have a ‘clone’ in training).
Above all, those at J.F.Y. Pools are mindful of the impact this pandemic has now and in the future. “Our hearts go out to the people who have lost jobs and the families who are struggling,” Ruble says. “We remain hopeful that, as a nation and as an industry, we will pull through this and come out stronger. I believe that the way we do business and carry out our lives will be forever changed but will hopefully make us mindful to appreciate what and who we have in our lives and never take a second of time for granted.”