This article appeared in the May 2021 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
Nordic Hot Tubs Inc., the long-time hot tub manufacturer based in Grand Rapids, was one of many companies forced to close operations as a result of the statewide shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
About 10 days into the shutdown, however, when it was clear that the stay-at-home order was likely to be extended for untold weeks, Nordic was struck by an unexpected challenge — a surge of orders.
“We have seen an unprecedented volume of sales since the start of the first stay-at-home orders,” says Pete Westfall, President of Nordic.
Nordic happened to fall into a business category that thrived as a result of more people spending more time at home. Things like home office supplies or home gyms were obvious beneficiaries of the pandemic shutdown but, as it turned out, so was home leisure.
“People want to be safe and comfortable at home,” says Westfall. “We are a business that has been blessed throughout the pandemic.”
So, when Governor Gretchen Whitmer gave the all-clear for manufacturing to resume in May 2020, Westfall and his team not only had to resume production, they needed to ramp it up while, at the same time, trying to implement changes needed to keep their staff safe.
For the first time ever, Nordic needed to add a second shift last summer, which involved staffing up and a lot of cross training. With social distancing, contact limiting and other COVID-19 related complications, this was especially challenging as there is very little machinery involved in hot tub manufacturing, and no stamping. Each hot tub is built from the ground up in an environment more akin to a craftsman’s workshop.
Westfall sees the company’s sales staying strong as he sees the “stay-cation” trend lasting for another two to three years.
Nordic was founded in 1995 by William A. Gibson as an affordable, therapeutic alternative in the hot tub market. In 2013, Maurizio Vozza, as majority owner, and Barbra Sisung purchased the company and changed Nordic’s direction to an affordable luxury brand that now competes head-to-head with top tier industry manufacturers.
Westfall grew up in the hot tub industry.
“My parents were hot tub retailers and I enjoyed working with them growing up. I joined Nordic in 2011 as a regional sales manager covering the Midwest territory. I have known our owner and CEO, Maurizio Vozza, for over 25 years and he has been an incredible mentor to me,” Westfall says.
As Westfall and the rest of the company are now looking past the pandemic, they are also looking back and are eternally grateful for the hard work and dedication their employees displayed during the toughest times through the pandemic.
Nordic believes in taking good care of their employees, says Westfall, and they also have a long history of giving back to the community by donating tubs to charities, including Water for a Warrior. And those efforts have only been magnified because of COVID-19.
“Community involvement is something that has become more important to us during the pandemic. We have recently gotten involved with Make-a-Wish Foundation, providing hot tubs to children who suffer from critical illness and can benefit from hot water therapy,” Westfall says.
And that, he adds, is a very good feeling.