Growing a Business
At Lemens WaterCare LLC in Luxemburg, Wis., there is a relatively small group of people working to keep water quality intact for local communities in Kewaunee, Brown and Door counties. Led by president James Simonar, the company focuses on delivering a variety of services to customers, from filtration systems and reverse osmosis (RO) systems to water softener salt and bottled water.
In 1963, Robert Weidner began WaterCare in the neighboring town of Casco. The business relocated to Luxemburg in 1986 when it was purchased by Leonard and Janice Lemens, and a complete line of WaterCare water softeners also were introduced. In the 1990s, more products were added to the company’s inventory: large filtration systems, salt, point-of-use (POU) filtration systems, bottled water, water coolers and more.
Simonar joined Lemens WaterCare in 1994 as a full-time employee. He and his wife, Beth, eventually purchased the company from the Lemens family in 2003. The business continued to boom throughout the years, and in spring 2011 Simonar and his wife purchased a 5,000-sq-ft building to house it. The building includes a retail store and warehouse, allowing the company to continue providing all services under one roof.
Like many other dealerships in the U.S., Lemens WaterCare currently is facing challenges with both the turbulent economy and local water quality issues. But with determination and flexibility, the company continues to push through.
“The weak economy has affected new sales,” Simonar said. “With decreased home building, sales of new water softeners are down. The option of renting for the first year, then being able to purchase the unit, is becoming popular.”
In addition to financing programs, the company offers a “baker’s dozen” deal, in which customers can purchase 12 bags of salt and receive a 13th bag free. “We find this brings in many repeat customers,” Simonar added.
A growing awareness of water quality issues also has the business working harder to eliminate contaminants and ensure customers are satisfied with their water quality. “People are becoming more aware of the contaminants that can be in their water,” Simonar said. “We live in a rural area. Many of these areas are well over the MCL [maximum contaminant level] of nitrates. Other concerns are hydrogen sulfide, iron and hard water.”
In addition to delivering quality products, Lemens WaterCare prides itself on the ability to give each customer the right amount of attention needed to solve a water problem.
“Because we are a small company, customers can meet the owner, salesman and service technician all in one visit,” Simonar said. “We can give personalized attention to each one of our customers.”
He added that the company performs simple tasks for customers, such as keeping track of filter changes to make it easier for them to stick to a maintenance schedule. “When people come to our retail store, we do all of the loading of salt and water [that] they purchase,” he said.
Approximately 90% of Lemens WaterCare’s business comes from residential customers, while the remaining 10% are commercial. At present, all aspects of the business are profitable, Simonar said. Rentals provide a steadier income for the company, allowing it to offset any lagging sales due to the economy.
In addition, serving rural areas has its advantages for the company. “Word-of-mouth is our best source of marketing,” Simonar explained. “In a small town, news travels fast. So the more satisfied customers we have, the better our business grows.”
Simonar and his team are hopeful for the future of not only Lemens WaterCare, but also the entire water quality industry. “The future of the industry is going to be good,” he said. “The more people looking for quality drinking water, the more the industry will grow.”