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Pool construction "exploding" during pandemic

Silver Lake Backyard Pool

DIVE IN: Since the pandemic hit, more people want backyard pools constructed, says Chad Johnston at a recently completed hillside pool above the Silver Lake Reservoir.

Chad Johnston is excited to move from Silver Lake to a new house in Eagle Rock. His three kids – ages 4 to 13 – can’t wait either. Sure, there will be great views from the hilly property – but that’s not the major draw.

“I’m finally getting to build a pool for me and my family,” says Johnston, a partner of Johnston Vidal Projects a Santa Clarita-based landscape design build-firm that has gained a reputation for specializing in hillside pools.

Before the pandemic hit, the 7-year-old company would get on the average 5-8 phone calls a week inquiring about building a backyard pool.

“Now, we are getting 5-8 calls a day,” says Johnston who adds that he’s had to turn down projects because his staff and crew are working at capacity.  “The demand is just exploding,” he says. “There is so much interest from Los Angeles' Eastside, especially in the Silver Lake area.”

A recent Silver Lake project involved designing a backyard pool on the notoriously steep Baxter Street. In order to get to the property, the crew had to coordinate access with next door neighbors on Fargo Street (also hilly) who ultimately decided they too wanted to add a backyard pool on their property.

The uptick in pool construction ties directly to homeowners wanting to create their own personal paradise because of the pandemic. “The majority of pools we are constructing – I’d say 75-80 percent – are for families,” says Johnston explaining that parents see a pool as “saving their sanity,” and as a way to keep kids entertained.

“We here in Southern California are such an outdoor living kind of people,” Johnston continues. “This pandemic just shows us how much we value our outdoor living, and how a pool can make things bearable.”

In 2016, a Fast Company article reported that 250,000 private pools exist in Los Angeles County, noting that in Beverly Hills, 60% of homes have pools. 

Nevertheless, the overall revenue growth for the Swimming Pools Construction industry in the U.S. is expected to decline 1.4% in 2020 amid CoVid-19, according to market research firm IBIS World. The report points to a slowdown in per capita of disposable income and increasing unemployment rates.

So far, Johnston hasn’t experienced any slowdowns – or expects any. He and his partner employ 35 field crew workers, two full time designers and one office manager.

“We are really lucky to be doing what we are doing,” he admits pointing to the devastating losses in other small businesses. “It’s been a pretty wild ride so far.”

Poll: How have you upgraded your backyard during the pandemic?

You voted:

Biz Buzz Asks: How’s business these days?

We asked the question of Christian Degracia, co-owner of 1802 Roasters in Cypress Park.

How's Business 1802 Roasters

Delivery gigs skyrocket

Even before the pandemic, delivery jobs were seeing dramatic increases, and those numbers skyrocketed through the roof once Covid-19 hit the scene.

According to an article in Quartz, from February to July, the number of people working as “couriers and messengers’ jumped from less than 850,000 to almost 920,000. That’s an increase of over 8% at the same time when the overall jobs in the U.S. fell by 8%. Since people were not driving to work or heading to stores, jobs at gasoline stations fell 4% over the same period – an interesting anomaly.

It’s the first time on record that more people worked in delivery than at gas stations, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Changes at USPS disrupt local small businesses

Local small businesses that rely on the U.S. Postal Service are encountering delays and other interruptions that could make serious implications for their survival. A recent story in The Los Angeles Times reports how small businesses are experiencing delayed shipments, late payment checks to vendors and time-sensitive materials never making it to their destination.

Overall, the article points out that small businesses are a key customer of the USPS; and microbusinesses (those with fewer than 10 employees) consider the postal service a vital part of their operations.  Many companies cannot financially afford opting for other private courier services – such as Fedex and UPS.

Tracking small business loans

A newly updated interactive map and microloan tracker reveals where microloans have been distributed throughout the City of Los Angeles. The Small Business Emergency Microloan Program was created by Mayor Eric Garcetti in March 2020 with an $11 million commitment and a goal of assisting small businesses that are not eligible for federal CARES Act dollars.

Low interest loans from $5,000 to $20,000 began being distributed in April – and continues today. Since the program started, more than $5.9 million have been provided to 419 Los Angeles businesses.

Deadline extended for free local small biz program

Los Angeles Cleantec Incubator (LACI) is offering a free 10-week virtual program to help businesses pivot and thrive during this pandemic economy.

Applications are now taken through August 30 for the Founders Business Accelerator program where business owners will learn how to increase resilience and develop effective strategies. Program participants will also have access to resources, connect and network with other small business owners and receive support and training from LACI.

Applicants from traditionally underserved communities are encouraged to participate: including Asian, Black, Latino and Indigenous small business owners, as well as veterans and formerly incarcerated individuals.

Go here to apply by August 30, 2020.

That’s it for this issue!

Stay cool and keep supporting small businesses as often as you can! We will be back next week with more Biz Buzz.

-- Brenda Rees

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