A new pool supply store is taking shape in San Luis Obispo.
A former employee of Coastal Pool Center, which closed earlier this year after 42 years, has opened a new business in memory of his friend and with some of his inventory.
Derek Ehinger recently opened CCH Pools at 2050 Parker St., less than a quarter-mile from where Craig Fraser had worked since his mother and her husband opened a business on Pacific Street on June 15, 1973.
After Fraser’s mother, Marlene Leek, died Feb. 1 at age 83, Fraser decided to close the business. He died unexpectedly April 5, just a few days after announcing the closure.
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“It was shocking,” Ehinger recalled. “Craig was the store. You couldn’t know him and not be his friend.”
Ehinger, a licensed electrical contractor based in Atascadero, started working for Fraser about 15 years ago as a part-time employee taking care of pool electrical work.
He became an independent contractor for Coastal Pool Center after he started his own company about eight years ago, with work from the pool supply shop comprising about 25 percent of his business.
“Working for Craig, it was really hard to say if he was my boss or my friend,” Ehinger said. “He was the best — it’s an honor to continue the same business that he had.”
Ehinger is in the process of applying for an additional classification on his contractor’s license to build pools and handle pool remodels. So far, he’s hired a certified pool operator; eventually he expects to have 10 to 12 full-time employees.
“If I’m going to be a pool company, I’m going to be full-service,” he said.
Ehinger said he and Fraser didn’t talk much about revenues or profits, but he thought Coastal Pool Center had conducted about $500,000 in sales each year. He hopes to match that in the first year and then increase his sales as the construction side of the new business gets going.
He estimated that he’s invested about $10,000 into the business so far.
While he needed to change the name — he named the business after his three daughters — Ehinger said the business will be modeled after Coastal Pool Center (though he won’t carry plants).
“Everyone will tell you Craig had that personal touch,” Ehinger said. “I don’t want to lose that. I guess I’m going to go out and be everyone’s friend — that’s what he was best at.”