December 7, 2016
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The Big Three

I keep learning something new every day. Unfortunately, it seems it usually is invariably learned the hard way. The adage “with old age comes experience” should have graced me as one very experienced soul by now. So perhaps I should “know better.”

I am sure there is some deep-rooted psychological reason for the fact that, besides being just a glutton, I am a glutton for punishment. Education? Why not get your bachelor’s and master’s degrees as an adult with children, working 60 hours a week? Start a business? Why not choose something easy like magazine publishing, where the grass is always green, with totally predictable 40-hour workweeks? Writing a publisher’s letter? Why not wait until the last possible moment to incur incessant nagging about finishing it?

And what and where is this all going, once again?

I will travel to Bluefield, West Virginia, on Oct. 9 to begin what I am sure will certainly be punishment. The Appalachian Series is a running event consisting of seven days, seven states, and seven half marathons. While I am sure the camaraderie and scenic beauty of the courses will be fun and inspiring, I am not sure my legs will care. As a matter of fact, I think they will voice their displeasure loudly and frequently.

What I have heard from friends regarding this is twofold: “You’re an idiot,” which I hope pertains to the series, and, “Why?” It’s probably better to answer that sooner than later after the event as the fall foliage might not be so beautiful after day three. I have three good reasons: craft beer, potato chips, and living in close proximity to Lic’s and Baskin Robbins. The order of these three is probably fairly accurate.

I don’t buy the argument that at 54 years old I should “just accept certain things.” Actually I am doing the sissy part of the event. The hardcore folks do a marathon (26.2 miles) every day for seven days. That is a mere 183.4 miles. And to think, we all take vacation time for this “enjoyable exercise.”

The training has been hard. Learning to run on very tired legs is a very difficult thing to teach your leg muscles. As I write this a week prior, I am pleased to say “the hay is in the barn” and I can start to rest more.

I know there will be times when I need to call on some mental toughness that resides in me somewhere. But just like years ago when, late into the night, a public announcer declared, “Todd Tucker, you are an Ironman,” it will be worth every last bit of pain and soreness. (Note: keep reminding yourself of this.)

2016 Appalachian Series
Oct. 9 — Bluefield, West Virginia
Oct. 10 — Bluefield, Virginia
Oct. 11 — Bristol, Tennessee
Oct. 12 — Fletcher, North Carolina
Oct. 13 — Seneca, South Carolina
Oct. 14 — Dalton, Georgia
Oct. 15 — Guntersville, Alabama

I will be visiting a few friends along the way, as well as seven state parks. And if you soon see me doing the crab walk and limping around town? Feel free to say, “It’s your own fault, you glutton.” I can expect to hear my “friend” Michael say, “Well, what did you expect, you big dummy?”

It has certainly been a sad time for many in Evansville and in the running community. I would ask that everyone take a moment to remember Janet Gries, who tragically was struck and killed by an oncoming truck as she ran on Boonville-New Harmony Road on Oct. 20. She was a lady who would have loved doing what I wrote about above and made many friends doing it. She always was quick to volunteer to help out and a friend to many. Although she died doing what she loved, that seems to be of little consolation now. Janet certainly will be missed.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Todd A. Tucker
Publisher

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On a Mission

Tracy Gorman and Evansville Rescue Mission meet needs of area’s homeless and hungry
As the seventh CEO/president in the Evansville Rescue Mission’s 99-year history.

When Tracy Gorman became president and CEO of the Evansville Rescue Mission (ERM) in 2008, he expected a learning curve.

“I had been a pastor my entire career,” says Gorman, a New Castle, Indiana, native and former pastor of New Life Church in Newburgh, Indiana. “I truly did not know the day I took this job every aspect that the Evansville Rescue Mission was involved in.”

The Evansville Rescue Mission, 500 E. Walnut St., is more than a 204-bed men’s residence center; it also operates Camp Reveal, Youth Care Center, two thrift stores, and a donation center, with plans for additional thrift stores and a women and children’s shelter in the distant future.

Gorman’s position at the ERM gives him a front-row seat to the issue of homelessness, which he says is more encompassing than most people realize.

“It doesn’t always fit so nicely in a package,” says Gorman, who has seen every demographic come through the ERM’s doors — men and women; children and elderly; doctors, lawyers, and even a chemical engineer. “I think we get a picture in our mind of what it looks like, and sometimes we’re wrong. I was wrong.”

Since Gorman took the job, the need for the ERM’s services has risen exponentially. The Gobbler Gathering held each November has grown from serving 800 families in 2008 to more than 2,200 families expected this year. Gorman also reports a dramatic rise in the need for daily housing and meals — the ERM is on course to have more than 50,000 bed spaces and serve more than 210,000 meals by the end of the year — and the need is not likely to decrease anytime soon.

“We had the types of numbers in the summer that we normally don’t see until winter,” says Gorman. “We’re anticipating using all our bed spaces this winter, plus all our cots.”

However, Gorman isn’t deterred. Thanks to social media, relationships built with elected officials and businesses, and mailings regularly sent to homes, Gorman says the ERM’s annual giving has doubled and its presence within the community has grown.

“I think the community trusts us. We’ve been here 99 years. We’re not the new kid on the block,” he says. “I think we’re at a point where we can make a huge impact on the community even more than we ever have in the next few years. For me, that is really exciting.”

▲ Joshua Estes, 32, of Evansville, works on an assignment of PACES, the ERM’s long-term residential program.

For more information about the Evansville Rescue Mission, call 812-421-3800 or visit evansvillerescuemission.org.

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Wonder Woman

Sandy Quick embraces role as rare female business owner in the appliance industry
Wayne’s Appliance & Mattress owner Sandy Quick uses the knowledge she learned from her parents to guide the business.

Sandy Quick knows how to get things done. From ordering stock and unloading trucks to serving customers on the sales floor, the Wayne’s Appliance & Mattress owner is using the strong work ethic she learned from her late parents, Wayne and Alice Forcum, to not only run but expand the more than 50-year-old business they handed down to her.

Five years ago, Quick took the reins of the family company, moving it to 5719 E. Morgan Ave. for an expansion of its products and services. Under her leadership, along with help from her husband David, the business now boasts the Restonic line of mattresses in addition to a range of household appliances from Whirlpool, Jenn-Air, Maytag, GE, KitchenAid, Samsung, LG, and Holland Grill Company. But the biggest change is the addition of a warehouse at the retail facility, which gives customers the new option of selecting and picking up products the same day.

Quick credits the company’s successful expansion to staying “local.”

“It’s hands-on constantly, and it’s human contact,” she says. “There’s no corporate office to go through — I make the decisions.”

Wayne’s 12-member staff of mostly women — many of whom have been with the company for more than 10 or 20 years — all can service each side of the business, from sales to stocking.

“We get stuff done,” says Quick, who graduated from Indiana State University-Evansville (now University of Southern Indiana) in 1985 with a degree in business administration.

Anna Meeler, a Wayne’s sales associate for eight years, says employees stay with the company for Quick’s solid leadership and strong work ethic.

“She creates a family-like atmosphere,” says Meeler.

While Quick may be a rare female business owner among colleagues at appliance industry meetings, she says it’s a big advantage in relating to female customers.

“Women take care of the household appliances and make the buying decisions,” she notes.

Another important part of Quick’s business is charitable work — most notably with the Tri-State Multiple Sclerosis Association, as she has the disease.

No matter how much the company expands, Quick says Wayne’s always will remain locally owned and give back to the community that supports it.

“Every time a customer leaves the store,” says Quick, “I thank them for buying local.”

For more information about Wayne’s Appliance & Mattress, call 812-425-5451 or visit gowaynes.com.

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RAD Renovations

Evansville Housing Authority preparing for refurbishment of public housing
Evansville Housing Authority Executive Director and CEO Rick Moore attends the groundbreaking on Evansville’s public housing.

Evansville Housing Authority’s public housing is getting a much-needed facelift thanks to its acceptance into U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) newest assistance program.

HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program combines assistance through low-income tax credits and privately sourced funding. Historically, public housing receives funding from Congress. However, in recent years the federal government body has not allocated enough money to fully fund operations and upkeep.

According to EHA Executive Director and CEO Rick Moore, this $32-million, two-phase project made possible by RAD will help fix structural, infrastructural, and cosmetic damage to public housing across Evansville. Phase I — which includes improvements to 559 units in Buckner Tower (Downtown), Kennedy Tower (Downtown), Schnute Apartments (West Franklin St.), White Oak Manor (St. Joseph Avenue), and Caldwell Homes (Southeast side) — is expected to be complete by June 30, 2017. Soon thereafter, Phase II will include two waves of improvements — 230 units in Fulton Square Apartments and about 100 scattered-site units.

“We get about $1 million a year for capital improvements, so we have been able to patch the buildings over time. We needed more money to fix the structural and infrastructural needs of the apartments, though. They were not falling apart, but we didn’t want that to happen either,” says Moore.

Not only has EHA acquired more funding to create better homes for their residents because of RAD, but the program also allows EHA to perform long-term planning.

“With RAD, we have a 15-to-20-year contract which is automatically renewed in 20 years. We have, in essence, stabilized our funding for the next 40 years,” says Moore. “The plan for our future is to not only sustain what we have, but also garner capital to build more affordable housing units in this area.”

While construction is ongoing, families have the option to transition to temporary housing within their building at no additional cost.

The program also provides hope to people who rely on public housing.

“It means transformation. We can repair, improve our facilities, provide safer places to live, and a better quality of life for our residents,” says Moore. “Low-income people will have a better opportunity to reach self-sufficiency.”

For more information about EHA, call 812-428-8500 or visit evansvillehousing.org.

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App Appeal

Download Evansville Living’s app and read the magazine on your phone or device
Evansville Living’s app

Enjoy a paperless experience of Evansville’s lifestyle magazine by downloading the Evansville Living app to your Apple or Android device.

Evansville Living’s app was released in September and currently is available on Apple’s App Store, Google Play, and Amazon Underground. The app allows readers to peruse complete print editions in brilliant digital color, effortlessly flip through pages, and share content on social media.

The app is interactive and user-friendly. Digital subscribers can set up notifications to be alerted when the bi-monthly issue is available. Flip just a few pages past the cover to find the table of contents. By tapping on a page number listed, readers are taken directly to that story; no need to scroll through numerous pages.

Want to view the magazine as if you were reading a print issue? Turn your device to a horizontal orientation (Hint: Make sure your device’s Portrait Orientation Lock is off) to see two pages — or in magazine terms, a spread — at one time. If you want to share with friends by text, social media, or through email, click on the share icon at the top right corner of the app. A moveable and resizable box appears and allows you to easily select desired content for sharing.

The app offers a one-minute preview of each Evansville Living issue so you can view content before you buy. Single issues are available for $4.99, or save by purchasing an annual subscription of six issues for $14.99.

At this time, the Evansville Living digital subscriptions must be purchased separately from print subscriptions. Evansville Business is not available on the app.

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Sacred Ground

Brian Holtz’s career comes full circle to lead city’s Parks Department
Brian Holtz, executive director of the City of Evansville’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

A Catholic priest, hospice chaplain, community corrections director, and parks and recreation executive director — these careers may seem quite different on the surface, but Brian Holtz sees them as connected to one recurring theme in his life.

“Through my entire career, I looked for positions that were the model of servant leadership,” says Holtz.

In March 2016, Mayor Lloyd Winnecke appointed Holtz executive director of the City of Evansville’s Department of Parks and Recreation to fill the vacancy created by retirement. Holtz previously was the department’s deputy director in charge of partnerships and funding since 2013.

Prior to that, he had been a priest at both Resurrection Catholic Church on the West Side and Holy Rosary Catholic Church on the East Side before leaving the priesthood. He then served as hospice chaplain for Visiting Nurse Association and executive director of the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office community corrections program, in which Holtz mentored non-violent offenders.

Now, Holtz manages the team of 50 full-time and more than 300 seasonal employees to maintain 65 parks, 21 recreational facilities, and more than 2,500 acres of land throughout Evansville and Vanderburgh County. He encourages employees to think outside the box to find unique solutions to budget restrictions.

“My job is to be a cheerleader, to manage and juggle a $10-million-a-year budget,” says Holtz, a 1987 Memorial High School graduate.

The job requires him to listen to the community, have an open mind to the suggestions made, and prioritize concerns.

“I think it takes a person who is a mediator to handle that,” he says. “To be able to decipher what needs attention and what can wait until the next day.”

The youngest of nine children and a lifelong Evansville resident, Holtz recalls growing up in Jimtown — a blue-collar neighborhood north of the Lloyd Expressway bordered by Garvin Street — and spending sunrise to sunset away from the house.

“We felt like somebody when we could ride our bikes from our house to Garvin Park,” he recalls.

He feels immense pride that his job allows him to contribute to the well-being of others who live here.

“Getting up every morning and wanting to go to work is a great feeling,” he says, adding he understands the political nature of the position means he could be out of a job after the next election. “I think my responsibility is do what I can with the time that I have. I can control me and that’s it. I don’t live in that fear. I’m appreciative Mayor Lloyd Winnecke gave me the opportunity to lead this department.”

For more information about the City of Evansville’s Department of Parks and Recreation, call 812-435-6141 or visit evansville.in.gov/index.aspx?page=48.

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Protect and Serve

U.S. Marshal Ryan Filson completes Command and General Staff College
Deputy U.S. Marshal Ryan Filson stands atop the Winfield K. Denton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse.

Thanks to Hollywood’s depiction in movies, most people think a U.S. Marshal’s job is solely to pursue fugitives. As the nation’s oldest and most versatile federal law enforcement agency, marshals do much more. Thanks to recent training that prepared him to coordinate military-level responses to disastrous events, Deputy U.S. Marshal Ryan Filson ­­— assigned to the Evansville Office — is a perfect example.

Taking nearly a year away from regular duties, Filson attended The Command and General Staff College. Based in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the college’s mission is to educate, train, and develop members of the military and government agencies for unified land operations in a joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational operational environment; and advance the art and science of the profession of arms in support of Army operational requirements.

Timothy O’Hagan, director of the inner-agency program at the Command and General Staff College, says, “The college provides students with the knowledge of critical thinking, creative thinking, and problem solving. Our inner-agency student population varies year to year and is usually between 25 to 30 students.”

The Command and General Staff College originally was a military post known as Cantonment Leavenworth and was established by Colonel Henry Leavenworth on the Missouri River on May 8, 1827. The cantonment was the first settlement in the Kansas territory and is the oldest active Army post west of Washington, D.C.

It was not until 1881 that General W.T. Sherman directed the establishment of a new school at Fort Leavenworth that would quickly become The Command and General Staff College.

As an inner-agency student, Filson worked in a staff group of 16 people. The school predominantly is a requirement for field grade officers in the military, so Filson had much to learn.

“When we did group work with sometimes up to 32 people, they had scenarios where a fake country invades the Caucasus region and we dealt with the whole process of force flow and pushing back invasions,” says Filson. “The exercises broke down every little detail.”

Besides acquiring leadership and command skills, Filson also took electives that helped him better
understand international terrorism, domestic terrorism, and defense support for civil authorities to respond to catastrophic events.

Originally from Protection, Kansas, Filson started his career as a state trooper in his home state in 1990, moving his way up to federal government special agent in 2000. In 2007, Filson lateraled to the Marshal Service in Fairbanks, Alaska, and then transferred to Anchorage in 2010, becoming a supervisory deputy.

“My first arrest in Alaska was at 43 degrees below zero. We had a warrant for the guy and it was so cold that when I took my gloves off to pat him down I couldn’t feel my hands. The other officers had to pat him down but they told me, ‘Since you can’t feel your hands, we won’t put you on the wall of shame this time,’” he says, recalling his colleagues joking about his blunder.

Filson transferred to Evansville in 2012 and has been here ever since. As a Marshal, some of his main duties include apprehension of federal fugitives, transportation of federal prisoners, seizing property acquired by criminals through illegal activities, protection of the federal judiciary, and operation of the witness security program.

Filson has an associate’s degree in criminal justice, a bachelor’s degree in both criminal justice and corrections, and is finishing up his last semester for his master’s degree in management and leadership from Webster University, St. Louis, Missouri. The Command and General Staff College coincided with his master’s degree program and counts toward some of his credit hours.

“Ryan was an excellent student, very personal, very engaging, and we got along well,” says O’Hagan. “Although the college is a little more difficult for inner-agency students, we have not had an inner agency student who has not been successful.”

Filson says he has no future plans for school beyond his master’s degree, which he will finish in October. After completion of The Command and General Staff College, Filson says he was glad to be back home with his wife and daughter. Though he missed his family, he adds being on campus alone allowed him to focus on his work.

“I had to spend so much time reading. I would usually get out of class around 3:30 p.m. depending on the day, and no matter what time I got out, I would go back to my room and start writing a paper or reading until 10:30 p.m., at least,” says Filson.

It wasn’t all hard times and studying, though. Filson stayed on post in a building with two Army officers and socialized with fellow students whenever he had free time.

“I became good friends with the Vietnamese officer who lived down the road. We were the two odd people out sometimes because he is an officer from another country and I had no military experience,” says Filson. “His family wasn’t with him, either, and he would cook Vietnamese food for lunch and I would come over. Some of it was unique; we had pig’s tongue once.”

Filson says he keeps in touch with many of the students and teachers from the college.

“It was an excellent college and a unique experience,” says Filson. 

For more information about the U.S. Marshal Service office in Evansville, call 812-465-6437 or visit usmarshals.gov.

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Mark Spencer

Hometown: Rochester, New York

Job: Athletic Director, University of Evansville

Education: Undergraduate degree in accounting from St. Bonaventure University, St. Bonaventure, New York; master’s degree in sports administration from Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia.

Resume: Committee for the Olympic Games, Atlanta, Georgia, 1995-1996; director of ticket operations, Albuquerque Dukes professional baseball team, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1996-1998; manager of athletic ticket operations, the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, 1998-2000; associate athletic director of business operations, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee, 2000-2002; associate athletic director of internal affairs, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri, 2002-2006; senior associate athletic director of finance and business affairs, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, 2006-2014.

Family: Wife Lindsay and daughter Riley, 6.

Mark Spencer was sure he would become a basketball coach. Studying for his master’s degree at Georgia State University, he dual-majored in sports administration and coaching and realized coaching wasn’t his forté.

“I found I am an analytical accounting mind; administration is where I’m best suited,” he says. “Doing the business side of things is really where my mind goes. I like to fix problems.”

Spencer has worked with athletic departments at universities across the country, big and small. What drew him to athletics,
he says, is the chance to make a difference in students’ lives.

“It’s those kinds of relationships that really make the difference between just having a desk job and working in athletics,” says Spencer.

What attracted you to the athletic director position at the University of Evansville?
I met one of my mentors, Bill McGillis, while working at the University of New Mexico. At the time, he was the senior associate athletic director here at UE and he gave me some good advice and helped me move on to a few jobs. When I got my chance to become the athletic director here, he gave me counsel again.

I feel like I have been following Evansville for about 10 years, since Bill was here. I had an idea of what Evansville was about; I was excited to have the opportunity. I knew it was a place of growth.

I like the small-school environment. The personal interactions on a campus like this are incredible.

What have you enjoyed most about Evansville as a community?
It’s tough to really narrow it down. Evansville is as big or as small as you want it to be. It’s truly Midwest. I’ve met such a great range of people. It is a melting pot. You have the bankers, the insurance folks, the mom-and-pop shop operators, and the farming community. And all of them love their Aces.

We want to give them more recent history they can be excited about. They really embrace the school, our student athletes, and what we’re about. So it’s been great to be welcomed with open arms into the community.

What work do you feel most proud of in your two years at UE?
The deal with ESPN and the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), which allows us to broadcast all of our home men’s and women’s basketball and soccer, women’s volleyball, baseball, and softball games. Every MVC conference member does the same, so fans are able to watch all of the MVC road games as well. The deal brought a producer and director onto our staff. They’re also working in concert with our communications department to help bolster UE’s athletic communications degree to recruit students. They actually teach classes.

The deal integrates so many pieces on campus. Athletics so often can be seen as a divider. We are, for good or for bad, the front window of the university. To be able to represent that through ESPN 3 game broadcasts, while also integrating the communications department, goes exactly with what I have as a professional goal for all my student athletes and really ties into the university’s mission.

What’s your favorite sport?
That’s a tough one. I played basketball, I’m a college basketball junkie. I’m also an absolute soccer fanatic, whether it’s college soccer, Major League Soccer, or English Premier League. Those are the sports I know.

The great part about the sports mix at UE is I know all of them, I’ve seen all of them before, and I understand them. I really like the sports mix here. 

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Making Waves

Jeff Friedlund grows Spa City into local success
Jeff Friedlund

Jeff Friedlund was fresh out of college, a graduate of Vincennes University, when he started working at Spa City U.S.A. in 1997.

An Evansville native and North High School graduate, Friedlund began his career by delivering hot tubs his parents Bob and Lois Schmitt sold at their business. Eventually he would work his way up to owner and operator of the home recreation company.

Spa City itself was a new business when Friedlund came on board. Working out of a small space he equates to the size of a garage, Spa City sold more than just hot tubs in the beginning.

“We were just selling everything,” says Friedlund. “From patio furniture, tanning beds, saunas, pool tables, grills to swimming pools. We sold a lot just to get going.”

In 2001, Lois and Bob were ready to hang up their hats and retire. They were the sole owners of the business and prepared to sell the company. By this point, Friedlund had expanded his duties at Spa City. Not only would he go on delivery calls, but he worked on and serviced the spas sold, and had his share of sales experience.

Friedlund says he didn’t want to see Spa City sold to someone else, so he stepped up and told his parents he wanted to take over.

“I bought them out on a contract,” he explains. “I have been the sole owner since 2001.”

Since its beginnings in a small space on the East Side, Spa City has moved to a larger location at 6100 E. Maxwell Ave., a warehouse space that allows Friedlund to utilize a 13,000-square-foot showroom. Walk into Spa City on any given day and Friedlund has about 50 to 60 hot tubs on the floor, ready to sell. This is something not common with hot tub retailers, he says.

In Spa City’s 21st year of business, Friedlund and his staff concentrate their inventory on hot tubs, occasionally installing swimming pools and selling grills. The quality of products and customer service has earned Friedlund and Spa City a reputation among clients, both new and repeat.

“I think people like our service, our friendly demeanor,” says Bill Alexander, a sales representative who has worked with Friedlund for 15 years. He also started in delivery at Spa City before working in sales. “We try to answer all their questions and we don’t put people off.”

“People just keep coming back,” adds Lois, “and by word of mouth, people tell others to go to Spa City and see Jeff. Everyone knows who Jeff is.”

Tales of success  - Inside Spa City’s store, before entering the showroom floor, customers are greeted by photographs of spas installed by the company over its 21-year-history. Owner Jeff Friedlund credits the success of the business to the quality of customer service offered by the staff, which creates lifelong customers.

Helping Hand

Spa City was born out of a want to help other people, says Lois.

“It started out very small,” she adds. “The place we started in didn’t have plumbing or anything. It had just enough room for a desk and a couple of hot tubs.”

Lois and her husband Bob opened the storefront in 1995 to help a friend in Tell City, Indiana, who built his own spas. When he ran into financial trouble and difficulty marketing his hot tubs, the couple offered to step in and help, opening a showroom in Evansville for his products. They then hired another friend — a salesman who had recently lost his job — to sell the product.

“We put a little ad in the paper about the business and we sold out,” says Bob.

Off the Beaten Path - Spa City opened its doors in 1995 in a small showroom behind Lea Matthews Furniture and Interiors on the East Side. After a year and a half, the company moved to its current location on East Maxwell Avenue. 

Just after Spa City’s one-year anniversary, the Schmitts purchased the location on Maxwell Avenue. From there, the business only grew. Their inventory expanded by purchasing overstock models from factories in Florida. When the spa manufacturer Gatsby went out of business, Lois and Bob bought the company’s entire inventory, allowing them to showcase close to 100 tubs in their warehouse.

“It started on a whim,” says Lois, “and it turned out to be a fast-moving, big business.”

When the couple decided it was time to leave the company, it wasn’t a surprise their son Jeff wanted to continue in their place.

“Since Jeff had worked there, he knew the business,” says Lois. “He worked up to owning it; he didn’t just come in and say, ‘Oh, I want this.’ We were ready to get out and he wanted it. He was ready to get into something.”

For 15 years, Friedlund’s hands-on approach and work ethic have grown Spa City into one of the largest spa retailers in the Tri-State.

Through the years, the business had its share of rough patches as well as achievements. During 2006 through 2009, when most businesses were struggling with the economic recession, Friedlund says his company wasn’t immune to the slump. Before 2006, Spa City would sell about 120 spas a year. During the three-year downturn, that number dropped to 50.

“Instead of giving up, we kept going, kept pushing,” says Friedlund. “Now we’ve double and tripled our sales since 2009.”

Spa City’s slogan says the company is “A Bubble Above the Rest,” harkening to its devotion to service and customer relationships, which Friedlund emulates and stresses to his staff. Spas can provide more than entertainment for families. Spa City helps customers find the right hot tub for their needs, whether it be relaxation to relieve stress or hydrotherapy to ease joint pain or arthritis.

The company serves clients within a 100-mile radius around Evansville. Jobs do not just end when the spa is installed either, adds Friedlund. The company employs just five staff members, many who have been with Spa City for more than 12 years.

“There are quite a few of us here who know everything about all of the hot tubs,” says Alexander. “So when a customer comes in, they’ll know we know what we’re talking about.”

Spa City’s warehouse atmosphere and location also combine to offer lower prices on its spas, adds Friedlund.

“We’re not paying a high rent or overhead, so it helps pass on savings to our customers,” he says.

Spa City’s quality spas are important to Friedlund as well. All three of the spa manufacturers he carries are made in the U.S., with one located in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and another in Nashville, Tennessee. Many competitors’ spas are manufactured outside the country, he says, in Mexico or China.

“The quality of a hot tub built in the U.S. meets higher standards,” he adds. “They have to meet a certain qualification when they are built here.”

“We make sure we get the right hot tubs that fit our market, the ones our market would readily accept,” adds Alexander.

The elements of Spa City merge to give customers an experience as enjoyable as sinking into the luxury spas they purchase.

“Customers refer others to us based on their experience with us,” says Friedlund. “When we hear people say that, we know we’re doing something right.”

Though Friedlund is the sole owner, his long-time employees have seen little difference between Jeff the deliveryman, service tech, and salesman, and Jeff the business owner.

▲ The building offers Friedlund 13,000 square feet of space to showcase the company’s products. Spa City keeps anywhere from 50 to 60 hot tubs on hand ready to sell. Friedlund says this is more than most dealers keep in-house.

“He’s definitely a hands-on owner/operator,” says Alexander. “He enjoys that. He likes getting out there on deliveries, doing repair work when he can. That keeps him in the game; keeps a hand on the pulse of the customers.”

That dedication drives Friedlund every day. As a husband and father of two young daughters, he juggles after-school practices and family time with answering phone calls and making sure things run smoothly. The mentality benefits his company, helping him retain customers, create repeat clients, and produce word-of-mouth advertising that brings in new business.

“You always hear stories from people, customers who come in and say they’ve had horrible customer service elsewhere,” he says. “I don’t want someone to say they would never come back here because of bad customer service. That’s not how I want to be known.”

“Jeff has done very, very well,” adds Lois. “I’m very proud of him, how he’s taken it.”

For more information about Spa City U.S.A., call 812-479-3161 or visit spacityusa.com.

Issue CoverEvansvill Business October / November 2016 Issue Cover