October 12, 2004 > TUBZ - Come Put Your Tootsies In!
TUBZ - Come Put Your Tootsies In!
by Linda Stone
Whether you are six feet, five inches or four feet, two inches, you can find a fit for your tootsies at Tubz.
What started out as a home business 20 years ago has become the largest retailer of whirlpool bathtubs anywhere in the U.S. - perhaps in the world. Tom Harrison started selling "jetted tubs" at his home on five acres in the east foothills of San Jose. It was not an easy location for customers to find. "You'd have to get a map to find it. We'd tell people to look for the dirt driveway that goes up into the apricot orchard with a sign that said 'Do not enter.' You go halfway up the hill and down the gravel driveway. There was a house back there," said Harrison.
The first spa tubs had been around almost 10 years by the time Harrison got into the business, but they were not designed like the ones you see today. In the early days they would take a tub and add components to make into a whirlpool tub.
He had a three-car carport with two decks filled with bathtubs and every day he would hose off the tubs. After hosing off the first deck, the water would run underneath to the second deck and he would have to go downstairs and hose off the tubs that were underneath. Wintertime was a challenge. "When it was raining we would go out with the umbrella," said Harrison. At that time he had three employees in a 12' by 16' shop.
His small dining room held eight desks for a staff of salespeople, telemarketers and a bookkeeper... and it drove his wife Kay crazy. She finally said to him "Look, I'm gonna go start my own business and you can call me and tell me when the staff is out of my house!" said Harrison.
So they found a 2,000 square foot building and moved 60 bathtubs in. The front of the building belonged to his wife for her business, and he took the back, which worked out fine, for a while. Things became increasingly crowded with two businesses in the same space. It got to the point where Harrison would receive calls from his wife telling him that there were furniture deliveries on the sidewalk and that in order to bring them in he had to move some of his tubs out. There was no more room. "I'm telling you it was like a cancer," said Harrison.
They moved again and again, expanding each time until finally they found a 42,000 square foot building on Davenport Place in Fremont and they still are looking for more room!
In 1980 Harrison had an employee who went on to develop a line of outdoor spas. He moved to Texas and Harrison didn't think he would ever see him again. But in 1989 Harrison ran into him at a trade show. By that time Harrison, in the business for 10 years, had some pretty good ideas about what the industry needed. Harrison and his wife went to Texas and helped design seven Aquatic tubs. It was Harrison's idea to create recessed jets and they pursued a design patent on the technology.
Today, Aquatic has over 100 different models. Eventually his friend sold the company, but Harrison still maintains a relationship with Aquatic and is able to buy direct, as he does with many other manufacturers. He buys tubs by the truckload.
"A lot of people don't know what they want and that's why our education is second to none," said Harrison. People come from many miles away to see over 400 tubs on display. Tubz even carries specialty tubs, like Oriental soaking tubs and tubs from England that have unusual dimensions.
"Our big thing is that we know what we are doing, we have a ton of inventory, we buy right," said Harrison. Tubz can even design custom tubs. They once made a tub for a film director in San Francisco with 28 jets and a six-horsepower motor.
To find just the right tub for relaxation, Tom Harrison says, "Come put your tootsies in our Tubz!"
4840 Davenport Place, Fremont
Monday - Thursday
10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
11 a.m. - 4 p.m.