Local pool, spa business far from lukewarm after 10 years

EAST DUBUQUE, Ill. — When Luke Tigges dove into the pool and spa retail industry in 2011, he had high hopes for his new business.

Nearly 10 years later, Tri-State Pool and Spa in East Dubuque continues to grow its customer base. And while the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted his business, Tigges feels sure that the company can continue its upward trajectory.

“I want to double the number of pool installs we did last year,” Tigges said. “That’s just the kind of mindset that you have to take, and I honestly think it can be done.”

Prior to selling and installing pools and hot tubs, Tigges worked in construction. In 2001, he was hired as a technician for a local pool and spa company to assist with installation. It didn’t take long for him to fall in love with the unique electrical expertise that such a field required.

“I can’t think of anything dumber than combining water with complicated electrical work,” Tigges said. “For some reason, I’m weird enough to do it and enjoy it.”

In 2011, Tigges decided he wanted a business of his own. It took him several months to find a retail space that both fit his price range and provided enough space to show his products. Eventually, he landed on a building in East Dubuque, the former home of the nightclub The Arena.

It had been unoccupied for several years and large portions of it had been damaged from flooding that swept through the downtown that year.

“The ceiling fans were black when they should have been gray,” Tigges said. “I wanted to fix it up and do something positive for the community.”

After extensive renovations, Tri-State Pool and Spa opened at 122 Sinsinawa Ave., where it remains a relative business oddity in a downtown primarily occupied by bars and restaurants.

Mayor Kirk VanOstrand said the business provides some much-needed diversity to East Dubuque’s downtown.

“We are very appreciative of what he provides to the community,” VanOstrand said.

Tigges said that his business has primarily grown through the installation and maintenance of in-ground pools, along with selling two brands of hot tubs.

He employs four technicians and three office workers to cover the contracted workload. In The Galena Territory alone, his business is contracted to perform maintenance and chemical balancing for nearly 70 houses per week.

“It’s been going strong every year,” Tigges said. “We’re continuing to see growth, which is good to see.”

However, like many businesses throughout the country, Tri-State Pool and Spa recently encountered challenges connected to the pandemic, which has created a severe shortage of parts in the retail pool and spa industry.

“Right now, we have had to set a lot of stuff on back order,” Tigges said. “If we get an order, we won’t see it until November probably.”

Despite those recent challenges, Tigges said he sees a sunny future for Tri-State Pool and Spa. With enough time and effort, he is certain his business will continue to make a splash.

“People are really wanting this,” Tigges said. “They are coming in and not walking out. You can tell there is demand.”