Founder Mark Stevens has announced that Georgia Spa Company has shifted to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, with nearly 90 employees becoming new owners. Stevens shared the news with staff during a company-wide meeting held at The Georgia Club in Statham, without prior notice to employees. Stevens founded the wellness product business in 2004 and will continue to serve as chairman of the new Board of Directors. He noted that he sought the right fit for himself and the company culture in making this move, with an ESOP providing an avenue for employees to own part or all of the business over time at no cost to them. Research shows that employee-owned businesses see increased sales and growth, stable jobs with fewer layoffs, more prosperous employees, and greater investment in retirement.
Larry Cheshier, a sales professional, and one of the new employee-owners, spoke of his gratitude, having joined the company five years ago. Josh Kemerling, Georgia Spa’s first employee, will assume the role of Chief Executive Officer, while David Baker, a former Sales Manager, returns as Executive Vice President. Human Resources Manager Ashley Steed takes the role of Internal ESOP Administrator, and all other leadership team members will retain their positions.
Georgia Spa Company, specializing in at-home wellness products such as hot tubs, swim spas, saunas, and grills, operates six showrooms and other facilities. One of the Georgia Spa company’s key suppliers, Watkins Wellness, expressed their excitement for the entire team, noting the company’s growth as a result of Stevens’ vision and strategy, as well as his ability to develop and maintain a successful people infrastructure.
This particular transfer of ownership is very interesting and unusual because there’s been unprecedented consolidation happening over the last decade in manufacturing and in retail. For example, Leslie’s acquired 4 large retail chains in that time including AquaQuip Pools and Spas (2019), Oregon Hot Tub Company (2021), International Hot Tub Company, and Valley Pool Sales (2018). Georgia Spa Company would have been an easy acquisition for a company like Leslie’s but the ownership chose a different direction in an effort to maintain culture which is very respectable.
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