But, 13 years later, the state and the nation are taking notice. By focusing on fun and catering to families, Budke and his staff have helped transform Tri-State Spas into the leading seller of hot tubs in Nebraska and among the top three Cal Spa dealers in the nation.
How did this happen? What sets Tri-State Spas apart?
There are many reasons, but the things topping the list are service, selection and Tri-State Spas' vast sales region.
It all starts with service. "That's why we sell so many," Blaine said.
As part of every purchase, customers receive free set-up and delivery, a free cover, $100 worth of chemicals and free lessons on how to use the hot tub and how to use chemicals. On top of this, the hot tub purchasers receive a three-year warranty. If, at any time during the three years any part fails, it is replaced free of charge with no mileage or service fee.
"The way we look at it, when you buy a tub from us you become part of the Tri-State family," Blaine said.
Selection is also a major factor. Thanks to large amounts of space at their stores in McCook, North Platte and Colby, Tri-State Spas has an inventory of 85 new tubs and 30 used tubs in stock. This is possible because of Tri-State's sales volume and the large number of manufacturers with which Tri-State is associated. "We have all the way from two-person spas up to 14-foot by 18-foot swim spas," Budke said. Suppliers are the leading manufacturers of hot tubs in the United States , including Cal Spa, Caldera, Great Lakes, Nordic, Sunrise , Dynasty and Dura Spa.
Because Tri-State Spas has so much to offer, the company's sales territory continues to expand. Through the stores in McCook, North Platte and Colby and four wide-ranging service techs, Tri-State's sales area stretches from eastern Colorado to the Norfolk, Nebraska area and from Valentine, Nebraska on the north to Hays and Great Bend, Kansas to the south.
Farm and ranch families account for a significant share of the hot tub business. "No one deserves a hot tub more," Budke said. "While many people in town work from 9 to 5, farmers work from 5 to 9."
Hard work and play during the day is what draws many to their hot tubs at night. Because of strategic jet placement, spa users relish in the soothing effect of water massage of their lower backs, shoulders and knees.
In addition to hot tubs and swim spas, Tri-State also sells outdoor kitchens and outdoor fireplaces. And, just recently, Tri-State acquired Cal Spas' entire stock of infra-red saunas. "We have 35 in stock. The saunas are excellent for relief of aches and pains," Budke said. The sweating relieves arthritis symptoms and the 135-degree heat removes toxins from the body.
Budke's business interests also include Tri-State Auto Plex, which has been offering great deals on pre-owned vehicles for the past 16 years.
Born in Salina , Kan. , Blaine came to McCook with his family at a young age. Following graduation from Republican Valley High School , he began a series of business ventures. He started by purchasing Big Ed's Bike Barn from his parents, then -- through the years -- has launched eight more businesses: McCook Mowing, McCook Snow Removal, B & B Motorcycle Repair, Carpet King, Tri-State Towing, Tropical Tanners, Tri-State Auxo Plex and Tri-State Spas.
"When I get an idea, I go with," Blaine said. His action strategy is still in motion.
"Tri-State Spas is the place chosen for the national debut," Budke said. That's not only quite an honor, it's another example of how a small town business can succeed with a big-time commitment to service, selection and customer satisfaction.
Find out more about Tri-State spas on their web site: www.tristatespas.net