We trace the beginnings of our
company, New Products Inc., to the plumbing industry in Chicago,
Illinois. With 13 years experience in plumbing and heating at a
union shop, Jim Henderson ventured west in early 1976, and found
work as the foreman of a crew that installed redwood hot tubs for
one of the earliest California hot tub companies. Within two years,
a separate company was formed in the backyard of a home in San Anselmo.
We opened our first retail store in January 1981 to support the
construction arm of our firm. Our need for more space and parking
necessitated the move to our current location on Digital Drive in
Long time associate and friend, Jay Hurley, is our store manager.
Currently, we occupy over 9,000 sq. ft. of showroom, office, and
production space, with 24 models on display. We have at least 4
models in our tryout room that can be wet tested. Our parts and
service department is proficient in maintaining the older spas,
as well as those units more recently installed. We have on of the
most extensive parts and accessories inventories in the San Francisco
THE EVOLUTION OF SPAS AND HOT TUBS IN THE NORTHBAY
The idea of communal bathing for purposes of health and relaxation
got a boost in California when World War II veterans stationed in
Japan experienced the concept and returned home. Here are some of
the general trends we have observed from our 25-year perspective
in chronological order. The earliest tubs were recycled wine barrels
or small water storage tanks made of redwood and heated by gas,
electricity, solar, wood, or heat exchanger. Some of these pioneering
systems were elegant in their simplicity, while others were, to
borrow from the vernacular, rather "far-out". A more typical
system circa 1976 may have looked like this: a wooden cylindrical
tank, approx. 5' or 6' in diameter, 3'-5' deep, holding 300 to 900
gallons, was equipped with 2 to 4 jets, and swimming pool support
equipment (pump, filter, heater, timer).
The fiberglass spa migrated north from southern California in the
late 1970's, and offered an option other than the 'wooden barrel'.
The acrylic spa that came next offered a glossy and more durable
surface that had an enormous impact on the industry and broadened
its appeal to the mainstream. In 1981, a seven-foot octagon acrylic
spa, heated via a stainless steel heat exchanger, using solar panels
and a domestic hot water heater, was the 'state of the art' system
and could cost $10,000 installed. Soon other plastics offering high
durability and differing textures were introduced to capture market
share in this vibrant industry.
Ultimately, spa manufacturers experimented with self-contained support
equipment that had been miniaturized. The equipment could now be
installed between the wall that held the water & the decorative
and protective exterior. Unused spaces that remained could be filled
with foam insulation. This development provided several advantages.
Most importantly, the spa became easier to install. A crew skilled
in plumbing, electrical, and carpentry was no longer required. This
portable spa merely needed to be placed. Secondly, economies of
scale rendered by factory mass production reduced costs, increased
features, and improved quality (although this last issue was often
debated until around 1990). No longer was the person desiring a
spa at the mercy of the local building department and the caprice
of spa installers. Finally, reduced heat loss and increased energy
efficiency made the self-contained spa less costly to operate than
the older systems that had support equipment remote from the spa.
The price of spas today has declined dramatically on a relative
basis. Often the expenditure necessary to install a spa is less
that 1% of the value of the home. Our company is fortunate to sell
and service the Caldera Spa. Fully insulated, high quality, and
pleasing to the senses, Caldera Spas, built in the Pacific Northwest
for 20 years, is designed to withstand temperature extremes, salt
air, snow, and rain. The strong partnership we have developed over
the years allows us to anticipate the next 25-year chapter in the
hot water industry with optimism and alacrity.