Northwest Business Magazine

Success Story: The Spa Shop Makes a Splash in the Local Spa Business

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Kelly and Michelle Langel pride themselves on offering exceptional customer service at their Belvidere store and repair business. See how this couple is making life more enjoyable for its customers.

Michelle Langel, Brittani Hughes, Kelly Langel and Cody Stumpf at The Spa Shop in Belvidere.

“It’s a vacation every time you step out into your backyard,” says Kelly Langel, about his feel-good business. Kelly and wife Michelle own The Spa Shop, 6276 Logan Ave., Belvidere, a spa and swimming pool retail and service store.

“Our business is all about relationships,” he says. “A spa gives a husband and wife time to sit and talk without the kids interrupting. And yet, they can still enjoy it with their family. It’s good family bonding time. You can throw some hamburgers on the grill, kick back and jump into the hot tub or pool. And really, who doesn’t like a hot tub?”

That was the thinking when the Langels opened The Spa Shop in 2004, after managing a successful water treatment business and spa repair center from their home. Kelly had prior experience in pools and spas and felt the time was right to open his own retail center. “This work is very rewarding,” he says. “It’s always been my personal goal to help people enjoy life and to take care of things that maybe someone else can’t fix.”

At the same time, Michelle was looking to return to work, after spending 14 years at home raising the couple’s children. Kelly encouraged her to give spas a try for 30 days. “If you don’t like it, I’ll hire someone else,” he told her. That was seven years ago. “The first couple of years were rough, trying to understand the industry,” says Michelle, who went out on service calls with her husband to better learn the trade. “That helped a lot. Now I have a solid understanding of the business, as well as a good handle on how to help customers solve their problems.”

Despite a weak economy, the Langels have seen their business thrive. They opened their first store in downtown Belvidere, but outgrew the space within six months and moved to their current eastside location.

“The growth has been phenomenal,” says Michelle, who adds that the spas not only provide social enjoyment, but healing powers. “Spas are very therapeutic. They’re good for your entire body. They’re very relaxing, and they help you to recharge.”

Another reason business is growing may be the fact that people are staying closer to home. Rather than booking pricey vacations, many homeowners are opting to invest those dollars into their backyards, adding things like stone patios, ponds, gardens, pools and spas.

And spas certainly have evolved over time. These days, state-of-the-art hot tubs include full perimeter/underwater LED lighting, elaborate TV/DVD equipment and complete stereo systems. Spas range in price from $2,800 to $50,000, depending on what bells and whistles customers select.

“People are in the market for more luxury items,” Kelly says. “They want to add some pizzazz to their spa at an affordable price.”

In addition to selling brand-name spas such as Master Spa and QCA, the biggest part of the Langels’ business is service and repair. The Spa Shop is a service center for 15 spa manufacturing companies, including Master Spas, QCA Spas, Dimension One and LA Spas.

The Spa Shop service territory covers most of northern Illinois, from the Iowa and Indiana borders south to LaSalle-Peru. Service calls keep the Langels and their staff members busy. The couple employs two people and plans to expand to meet demand during the busy season, which runs from March through November. The staff attends conferences and training sessions to keep current with industry advancements.

The Langels say the key to their business success, without question, is providing good customer service. Recently, they started hosting 30-minute classes in their store to teach customers the importance of properly maintaining their spa or tub. Technicians also spend considerable time onsite to help clients better understand their equipment.

“Even if we only sell them parts, I want to take the time and talk to them, and help them to enjoy their experience,” Kelly says. “When we go to a customer’s home for service, we don’t go out there just to try and diagnose the problem, only to come back a week or two later with parts. Our goal is to repair the spa that day, within the first hour or two, if possible. That’s what the customers want, and it’s important to us that we keep it simple for them.”

Kathy and Michael Brechon of Rockford have owned a backyard spa for several years. Last year, they discovered a leak in their tub caused by mice that had eaten through the lines. The Brechons were convinced they would have to buy a new unit, until they called The Spa Shop, which repaired the tub. “I was really thankful and surprised it wasn’t more costly,” Kathy says. “We hated the thought that we might have to buy a new one.”

Annual maintenance can extend the life of any hot tub or spa. The Spa Shop can perform water analysis on a swimming pool or spa to study levels of pH, copper, iron, phosphates, chlorine, bromine, biquanides and nitrates. If the pH level is not properly maintained, chlorine will not be effective at eliminating bacteria. The testing is performed at the Spa Shop and takes just minutes.

“Some people worry that it’s going to be too much work, but you don’t have to be a chemist,” Michelle says. “A lot of it depends on how you treat your tub. Water chemistry is very important but also very simple.

“If you don’t keep the pH balance in check, it can cause things to fail. We’ve seen hot tubs break down in six months, but we’ve seen them last for 20 or more years. It just depends on how knowledgeable the customers are, and how willing they are to take care of their hot tubs.” The Spa Shop also sells spa and pool accessories, including pumps, heaters and filters. Kelly recommends replacing filters on an annual basis.

Bonnie and Steve Tigner, Rockford, purchased a hot tub from The Spa Shop last summer. The Tigners, spa owners for more than 25 years, have known the Langels for years, since Kelly serviced some of their other hot tubs. When they moved into a new home, having a hot tub on the backyard deck was a must.

“We shopped around but ultimately didn’t want to buy from anyone else,” Bonnie says. “We trust Kelly’s integrity, and we knew that, in the event of any trouble, he would be there to service it.”

The Tigners use their own four-person Master Spa unit daily, usually early in the morning.

“It’s a great way to start the day for 15 minutes, drinking a cup of coffee, discussing the day ahead,” says Bonnie. “Steve is a business owner and lay pastor of our church, so he’s very busy. We thoroughly enjoy having it, and we definitely miss it if we don’t use it. It’s become part of our routine. It’s invigorating any time of the year.” ❚

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