In 1998, Earl & Joyce Michels went looking for a gazebo for the patio behind their home in Marshall, IL. They soon found that there was no one selling pre-built gazebos in the area and that contractors were not interested in building them due to their intricacies and relatively small profit margin. They also found that mail-order kits were cost-prohibitive. In his search, Earl did get a tip about a small company in southern Indiana that built gazebos and outdoor furniture.
Earl contacted the company and was told that they did not sell directly to the public and that their nearest dealer was in Evansville, IN. At the time, Earl was a 20 year veteran of the insurance industry, but saw a small opportunity for entrepreneurship. He did not own a business but he did live on a busy, lake-traffic road. He suggested to the manufacturer that since there was no dealer in his area, that they sell him one gazebo for his backyard and another for display. They agreed. So, with a display in the front yard and $1,000 in a business checking account, Backyard Leisure was born.
Earl continued with his full-time insurance career and sold gazebos and outdoor furniture mostly by in-home appointment. In 2000, in order to get his products in front of a larger audience, Earl began to look for display space in nearby Terre Haute, IN where he worked. He soon leased a small strip of grass near Honey Creek Mall which he passed every day on the way to his office. On this lot, Backyard Leisure displayed a couple of gazebos, some outdoor furniture and a sign with a toll-free number. The number of appointments grew and the display caught the attention of a representative from a spa manufacturer.
The spa rep contacted Earl and asked if he had ever considered selling hot tubs, saying that he thought it would fit in well with what Backyard Leisure was already doing. Around that time, in 2003, Earl noticed that there was no activity at the next lot down from his current display. When he contacted the owner of the property he found that the previous tenant had declared bankruptcy and that the property was available for lease. It wasn’t much, but there was an office and a two-car garage. Earl hired a friend to man the office and turned the garage into a make-shift showroom displaying four hot tubs.
In 2004, Earl resigned from the insurance industry and went full-time in the home resort business. Though it wasn’t easy, by providing good value and exceptional customer service, Backyard Leisure continued to grow. While Earl was a trained salesperson, a small business owner finds himself wearing many hats. He performed his own service calls for some time.
In August of 2007, after working in sales on weekends, Earl’s son Josh was hired as a full time salesperson. Josh is very knowledgeable about all of Backyard Leisure’s products and the hot tub industry as a whole.
In the years since, Earl & Josh have found that they are passionate about helping people live better through hot tubbing. And Backyard Leisure has grown out of a two-car garage into one of the largest hot tub stores in the country with multiple locations in Indiana and Illinois. Thousands of happy hot tubbers now say “Hot Tub, You Need It!”