seen in the Florida Trend, July 2004 Second-generation pool builder Doug Hackl has steered his family business toward the upscale market. When Doug Hackl started digging holes and lugging concrete block for his dad’s pool business in the early 1960s, he never imagined one day he would be building fountains for the rich, hunting Mexico for just the perfect blue tile to match the Atlantic Ocean and winning awards for a pool design called a vanishing edge.
His parents, Frank and Angeline, founded Hackl Pool Construction of Lake Worth in 1957 and over the years built thousands of pools for families throughout Palm Beach and neighboring counties. When Doug and his wife Ann took over the business in 1980, he steered the company in a different direction: East. Hackl figured the luxury market in Palm Beach and nearby affluent enclaves could help him grow the company and allow him more creativity. “It’s done all that and a lot more,” he says; “It’s much more of a challenge.”
The challenges come from the upscale customers as often as their complex pool and fountain designs. Consider the late Aldo Gucci. In the early 1980s, the excentric millionaire hired Hackl to tear out the 16-by-32-foot pool between his Palm Beach mansion and the Atlantic and replace it with a 40-by-60-foot saltwater swimming lagoon. Unlike most of Hackl’s wealthy clients, Gucci controlled his own accounts. “Gucci wanted to renegioate with every one. I had to fight him for every invoice,” Hackl says, “but then he recommended me until the day he died.”
Then there was the powerful magazine editor who asked Hackl to install her pool in one week. Hackl dug the hole Monday and laid the sod Saturday. We received a 10% bonus for our efforts.
Hackl doesn’t live like his wealthy clients. He tools around Palm Beach estates in a huge Ford F-350 pickup truck with a four-wheeler in the back splattered with mud from a weekend hunting trip. Hackl, 56, earned a bachelor’s degree in ocean engineering and worked outside the pool industry before he joined his dad. Courses such as acoustics, fluid mechanics and structural, mechanical and electrical engineering turned out to be highly relevant.
Hackl required his sons to also work outside Hackl Pool Construction before they joined. David, 36, and Stephen, 33, now are part-owners and officers, as is Hackl’s younger brother, Paul.>
Many of their jobs are second-generation: Customers who remember Hackl or his dad building pools for their parents when they were kids. Hackl also has ripped out pools built years ago by his father. Heartbreaking? “Not if they’re upgrading, changing and adding to the beauty of the project” he says. “Some people want to change pools as often as you and I change couches in our living rooms.”
Lately, Hackl has been building more and more fountains. He won best of show in the Florida Swimming Pool Association’s design awards this year for a breathtaking residential fountain made of black glass mosaic tile with a “vanishing” black granite edge. The 8-by-24-foot rectangular with a row of palm trees on either side features 76 dots of fiber-optic light patterned after the star constellation over Palm Beach on the night of the clients’ wedding. The fountain was designed by Gregory Lombardi of Cambridge, Mass., who says Hackl’s engineering expertise, connections with local suppliers and eye for aesthetics were invaluable to the project.
Indeed, in southeast Florida, Hackl has a highly professional reputation too often lacking among pool builders, says Maurie Schappell, a restoration and preservation consultant who renovates estates and other historic places. “I wouldn’t work with anyone else,” Schappell says. “Basically you give him any task and he will make it work.”