Klenswite Pools & Spas Can Trace Its Roots Back Three Generations
Klenswite Pools & Spas gives back and moves forward
Selling above-ground pools, spas, chemicals, accessories, parts and supplies, pool and spa service department, commercial/residential delivery, pump repair.
Number of employees
Family-owned businesses often face the unique challenge of adapting to current trends and practices while remaining true to the company’s original mission. For three generations, Klenswite Pools & Spas management say they have focused unwaveringly on their customers, even in the face of dramatic shifts in the market.
The story of Klenswite may be as compelling as its success, tracing its roots back nearly 100 years when Anthony DeVico, an Italian immigrant, traveled door to door selling his product, Klenswite bleach. Frank and Jeannette DeVico, took over the reins and in 1965 transformed the business to Klenswite Pools, opening a retail pool and spa supply store in the garage next to their family home in Rio Grande, New Jersey. Klenswite’s owner is Jeff DeVico, grandson of Anthony, who grew up working in the family business alongside his brothers, Tom DeVico and Joseph DeVico. When he turned 18, Jeff joined the Middle Township Police Department, serving as a police officer for 25 years until his retirement in 2012.
The business thrived, and Frank and Jeannette DeVico moved to a larger location one mile north of the original store. The newer 10,000-square-foot building’s outdoor pool park displays both above-ground and in-ground pools, and the larger indoor area serves as a showcase for hot tubs. Jeff took over operations in 2007, following Frank and Jeannette’s retirement. Jeff brought in business partner, Ellis “Pud” Ratcliffe, a well-known veteran of the pool industry. Pud had recently sold his successful companies, Del Val Pools and Holiday Pools, and was eager for a new challenge. Pud’s wife, Sandy Ratcliffe, joined the team as well, and together they worked aggressively to grow the company and its presence in the community. Pud and Sandy retired in 2016, and, has since continued under Jeff’s leadership. Behind the scenes is Michelle DeVico, Jeff’s wife and a popular morning DJ on one of the area’s local FM stations.
Living and working in Rio Grande, New Jersey, has proven advantageous for the DeVicos. “Our roots are buried in the community, and our philosophy aligns with that,” Jeff says. “Klenswite is a third-generation, family-owned business and our customers have remained loyal. We see our customers in supermarkets and restaurants so there is no running or hiding. We operate with a sense of pride, professionalism and integrity.”
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While giving back to the community has remained a focus for Jeff, it takes more than goodwill to move a company forward and ensure it can adapt and thrive in changing business environments. As a seasonal business that originally catered to customers from April through September, Jeff had to navigate a growing workforce in an industry challenged by limited profits in the off-season. Add to that supply-chain issues that have plagued the industry for nearly two years. “Explaining to customers, hoping they understand, while pricing accordingly has been a monster to say the least,” Jeff asserts.
In the end, that same focus on customers has been instrumental to Klenswite’s success. The company maintains an open-door policy to its owner, who insists on meeting with people in a timely fashion to resolve any outstanding issues. Jeff says it’s the staff who make this possible, most of whom have been with Klenswite for more than a decade. Retail store, service and delivery managers oversee the company’s day-to-day business and meet with Jeff daily to discuss any concerns. “We like to say our staff is an extension of our family, and we treat them as such,” Jeff says. This investment in staff includes hosting employee events to boost camaraderie and, adds Michelle, “At times there may even be a prank or two.”
Jeff believes that the empowering trust placed in company employees has enabled Klenswite to survive and even thrive in difficult times. “Initially, we all struggled in the early months of the pandemic, and we quickly realized we would need to develop new plans to maintain our customers while providing a safe environment for the staff,” Jeff explains. Sales staff implemented Zoom meetings with customers interested in pools or spas, and contracts were submitted via email. Additionally, the company improved its methodology for arranging residential delivery for established customers. “[Rio Grande] is filled with a large portion of second-home owners who work remotely and enjoy their time away from cities,” Jeff says. “The demand in our service department was easily met as customers requested pool openings weeks in advance of their normally scheduled [openings]. Our staff excelled throughout the pandemic without a doubt.”
Looking ahead, plans call for a second location and a construction division. As many businesses struggle to retain customer loyalty, Klenswite’s strategy of investing in staff and keeping customers happy may prove a winning combination.