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Watch now: This Bloomington pool business is closing after COVID-19 and a hurricane

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Backyard Pool and Patio in Bloomington is closing after more than 20 years in business. READ MORE HERE.

BLOOMINGTON — The economic situation at Rod Hinderliter's business has gone off the deep end. 

Even after logging record sales in 2020 and through the first three quarters of this year, Hinderliter, the co-owner of Backyard Pool & Patio Inc. is closing the Bloomington swimming pool and spa retailer at the end of the month. 

"The economy is all jacked up; prices are hyperinflated; we can't hire people," said Hinderliter, in business for more than 20 years. "The domino effect has brought us to a screeching halt and we've made the executive call to hang it up."

Like other small business owners across McLean County, Hinderliter is finding himself at the mercy of economic and market forces out of his control. 

Underpinning those forces are unprecedented demand and extreme supply chain disruptions, which have combined to lead to widespread shortages and intense price increases for both businesses and their customers.

There's also a national labor shortage, meaning a small business can't hire more staff to meet demand, even if it wanted to. 

Those dynamics, primarily related to the coronavirus pandemic, have been hitting Hinderliter and other local pool suppliers since summer 2020, when a surge of Americans turned to building their own backyard swimming spots.

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Rod Hinderliter, president of Backyard Pool and Patio in Bloomington, surveys his empty showroom floor on Tuesday. Hinderliter said the shortage of products is causing him to close the store at the end of the month.

In Normal, more than a dozen building permits for new residential pool construction or remodels were issued between April 2020 and April 2021. 

And in Bloomington, seven residential pool permits were issued just between July and August of this year. The city is also planning to renovate O'Neil Pool, on the west side. 

Both municipalities also opened their own pools to the public this summer, after they kept them drained and closed in 2020 because of the pandemic.

That residential and commercial demand for pool use translated to an explosion in demand for pool supplies like water chemicals, pumps, filters, hoses and other equipment.

At first, Hinderliter said he able to keep up with demand and "put money on the books that I never even fathomed." 

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Rod Hinderliter, president of Backyard Pool and Patio, walks past palettes of pool chlorination products on Tuesday. Hinderliter bought up as many chlorine products as he could at the start of the pandemic but not supplies are getting harder to obtain due to a plant closure in Louisiana.

Then, on the morning of Aug. 27, 2020, Hurricane Laura made landfall on the Gulf Coast, leading to a crippling fire at a pool and spa treatment plant in Westlake, Louisiana.

The fire at the Bio-Lab factory immediately constricted the national flow of chlorine availability and sent prices of the chemical soaring, Hinderliter said. 

That shortage continued through this summer — reconstruction of the factory won't be completed until 2022 — and a new one emerged: other supply and logistic bottlenecks meant Hinderliter couldn't stock the business' namesake products.  

"The store has transformed — the showroom is empty, the warehouse is empty," Hinderliter said. "This place is just boned out and I can't get product in here." 

Hinderliter said he ordered 143 new spas for summer 2021. Only four have arrived to the business, located at 2401 1/2 East Empire Street. 

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Packages of liquid pool chlorinator are stacked where hot tubs once stood at Rod Hinderliter's Backyard Pool and Patio, Inc., 2401 1/2 E. Empire St., Bloomington, Sept. 7, 2021.

And if product were to get from a manufacturer to his showroom or warehouse, Hinderliter said it would come months late. Hyper-inflation would also make that path "ridiculously more expensive." 

"At any one point this store had $1.2 million in retail merchandise sitting on the showroom floor," Hinderliter said. "To duplicate that inventory right now would cost $2.5 million." 

On top of bare-bones stock, Hinderliter also has a bare-bones staff, down from 12 to five, including himself and his wife, Kathy. 

"It's a logistics shortage and a labor shortage," Hinderliter said. "There's not enough people to build a hot tub, not enough materials, not enough truck drivers to get them here."

Ultimately, Hinderliter said he's closing the store because he can't provide an affordable or reasonable experience for his customers. 

"It's a viscous cycle, it dominoed and it just wiped us out," Hinderliter said. "You know, if you can't get the goods, you can't provide the service."


A global shortage of parts and supplies are making some items tough to find on the shelves of Twin Cities stores. READ THE STORY HERE.


Texas Roadhouse to supply 250 Bloomington jobs

The new Texas Roadhouse restaurant on Bloomington's east side will employ a staff of 250 people, the national chain announced late last month.

Construction is wrapping-up, and the company said it plans to open the  location in mid-September. A company spokesperson had previously said the target opening date was late August. 

The restaurant sits between the former Toys R Us store and Olive Garden in the Bloomington Commons shopping center, 1701 E. Empire St., where Barnes & Noble, H&R Block and Schnucks also are located.

A hiring center to fill full and part-positions at the restaurant is open in the nearby UPS Store. Available jobs are listed at careers.texasroadhouse.com.


Contact Timothy Eggert at (309) 820-3276. Follow him on Twitter: @TimothyMEggert

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