Florida pool competitors merge, reinforcing a family legacy
In 1990, when Erik Eikevik was 9 years old, his father sent him to help Gary Kaplan work on a pool.
“I remember as a child my dad says, ‘You’re gonna go with this guy you’ve never met [and learn about pools],’ ” Erik recalls of how his father introduced him to the family pool industry legacy. “And I’m helping him carry things at pool startups and digging holes.”
Little did Erik and Kaplan know that 25 years later, they would both still be in the pool industry — and business partners.
Erik finds it worth noting how he, his grandfather, father and Kaplan all started at the bottom of the pool industry and eventually found themselves owners. Bjarne “Ike” Eikevik Sr. started in the industry in 1956, working for Carter Pools (established 1949), which he purchased in 1962, changing the name to Ike’s Carter Pools. His son, Bjarne “Ike” Eikevik Jr., joined the company in high school, eventually becoming vice president.
Kaplan was attending Broward Community College when he saw an Ike’s Carter Pools ad for pool techs on a bulletin board. Kaplan says being outside working on swimming pools sounded like more fun than his job at the grocery story. He came on at Ike’s Carter Pools in 1987 at 17 years old for a summer job and says when the summer was over, he couldn’t get the pool out of his system. He found himself taking Erik through his first on-the-job training three years later.
The company became somewhat disjointed in the years that followed. Due to disagreements between father and son, Ike Jr. left and started his own company, Pools by Ike Jr., in 1993, building off the strong reputation his father had established.
In 1999, the elder Eikevik sold Ike’s Carter Pools in a manager buyout, which included another son, Steve Eikevik, two other partners and Kaplan, who was positioned as company president; Ike Sr. died six months after the ownership transition. Ike Jr. died in 2011, leaving his company, Pools by Ike Jr., in his son Erik’s hands.
Erik and Kaplan say there had been several attempts to bring the companies back together when Ike Sr. and Ike Jr. were alive, but the two couldn’t reconcile their differences in regard to the business. However, in 2015, Kaplan and Erik were finally able to merge the two companies under the Ike’s Carter Pools name. As co-owners of the merged company, Kaplan serves as president, and Erik as vice president of sales and marketing.
“The two companies were competitors for 26 years,” Erik says, adding that it got tiresome explaining to every new pool lead which company they were dealing with. “We saw there was an opportunity to move on from that [competition] and work together.”
“Whomever they were calling, they got a quality product,” Kaplan adds, “but Erik and I pushed pride aside and realized our pride should not be in ourselves, but in the product we build and service we provide.”
Building concrete and vinyl pools; ongoing service and repairs
120 pools annually
Number of Employees
800 weekly service accounts
Each company brought a strength within the industry: Ike’s Carter Pools focused on builds, and Pools by Ike Jr. focused on service. Together, the companies formed a powerhouse both agree is built on integrity.
“We have learned to be transparent, communicate and, whatever you do, keep your integrity,” Kaplan says. “Because, at the end of the day, that’s what’s going to move you forward.”
Integrity will constantly be tested when running a business, Erik says. “You have to try to keep your morals and keep growing,” he adds. “You have to learn and put yourself around the best people who are helpful. Those are things Gary and I learned from my father and grandfather, and we keep trying to do and teach that to our employees.”
Erik adds that always learning should be a top priority. “Looking back on everything my family’s done over the years, the biggest thing I’ve tried to take from that is that you’ll never know it all,” he says. “No education is bad education.”
Kaplan says one of the reasons he was for the merger was to preserve the Eikevik family’s legacy of hard work. The company has been in business over 70 years, and Kaplan wants to be attending the 100th year celebration. To accomplish that, the duo focuses on making sure everyone they employ is educated and knowledgeable about pool building and maintenance, so the result is a pool built and serviced with integrity and quality — ultimately, a better product. The objective is to always move forward, Kaplan says: “You jump over hurdles, you stabilize yourself, you move forward and you keep growing. Because it’s not just me, it’s not just Erik. The name Ike’s has a strong legacy that employs [great] people, supports [employees’] families and helps their communities. That’s what we strive to do each day.”
Photography by Jimi Smith Photography and Edgar Rodriguez
What’s in a name?
Bjarne Eikevik Sr. purchased Carter Pools in 1962. His grandson and current co-owner, Erik Eikevik, says his grandfather recognized his name was difficult to remember, say and spell. In the 1950s, Dwight Eisenhower was running for president, and his supporters coined the phrase “I like Ike” during the campaign. Noting its popularity, Erik says his grandfather adopted the nickname, too. Thus was born a multigenerational nickname of “Ike” for many of the men in the Eikevik family — and 60 years of name recognition for quality pool builds in the Florida region with Ike’s Carter Pools.