When Greg Arnds decided to move to Maui, Hawaii, he took more than just his sunglasses and suntan lotion with him. He also packed up his water treatment dealership for the long trip into the Pacific. Water Source was a mainstay of the water treatment and water store business in Southern California. However, Greg wanted something new and different, so after years of running his So-Cal dealership set sail for the Aloha state.
“I knew I was still a long way from retirement, but Hawaii is where I wanted to be,” he says from his Maui home. “So I figured if I have to work, I might as well be working in paradise.”
Nearly two decades later, Water Source is more than just a successful dealership; it’s become a family business that has turned a niche market into a booming enterprise that caters to the rich and famous in paradise.
With his son Brandon Arnds, today Water Source specializes in water treatment solutions for the most selective clientele in Maui. Their systems are sought after in multimillion-dollar homes and other high-end projects, such as hotels, restaurants and commercial applications.
While the majority of their business comes from residential clientele in Maui, more than 80 percent of the products they install are commercial systems and components. This unique contradiction arises because Water Source doesn’t deal with average-sized houses.
“When the residence you’re working on has three bars, several kitchens, weight rooms with steam showers and numerous other water features, the system you install is not a run-of-the-mill residential RO system. Typically, commercial equipment is going to do the job,” Brandon Arnds says. “Our highly selective customer wants a highly selective water treatment system…so that is what we provide.”
Equipment and services
For Water Source, the key to success is unmatched craftsmanship and service. The company uses only the highest-grade systems and components, ensuring that their customers receive the very best that the water treatment industry has to offer. Every installation is custom, Brandon says, with all lines plumbed, including drains, to make sure that their work is both of the highest quality and totally invisible to their customers, who demand perfection in their palatial homes.
For the few pieces of hardware that will be seen by the end-user, such as faucets, only the the most luxurious will do. That’s why Water Source relies on Waterstone, a manufacturer that custom-designs faucets to match any decorative motif imaginable.
“There are a handful of other dealers on the island that advertise themselves to the high-end residential market, but none of them are offering the quality and attention to detail that we provide,” Greg says. “We concern ourselves exclusively with the quality of our products and services. Price is no object with our customers, they simply want the best.”
‘The best,’ according to Arnds, includes high output whole house RO systems, commercial point of entry water conditioning, cutting-edge pipe fitting technology like German made ProPress copper fittings and finishing touches like faucets and other dispensers that resemble pieces of art rather than pieces of an appliance. In 1997, the demand for this type of ultra-high-end equipment was something of a niche market on Maui, but as the island has become a haven for America’s retiring elite, it has grown exponentially.
“Our customers demand the best and our reputation has been built on never saying no to a customer’s demands,” Greg says. The Arnds’ customer base includes high-profile CEOs, musicians and other celebrities.
Water problems in Hawaii
Because of its unique geography, water treatment on the islands is very different than traditional POU or POE treatment on the mainland. Some of the most beautiful home building sites in Hawaii are off the grid, so builders take advantage of rainwater catchment and re-pressurization systems. To address the concerns of surface and rainwater, Water Source utilizes NSF certified ultraviolet technology.
The municipal water systems in Maui draw from both groundwater and surface water sources. “There are three very distinct water sources from which most people are drinking here,” Brandon says. “Each one comes with its own set of contaminants.” Due to the history of Hawaii’s agri-business, DBCP (Dibromo-chloropropane) is one of the nematicides/pesticides that has infiltrated Hawaii’s groundwater. While the groundwater in Maui is not significantly hard (like that in the Western United States), it does have an unusually high presence of silicates, since the islands are volcanic in origin.
As amazing as the multimillion-dollar homes that Water Source services, is the structure of its business. The Arnds operate their high-end water business out of Greg’s home, the Internet and a small fleet of vehicles which includes a van and pickup. While they employ a handful of subcontractors for projects on neighboring islands and are always on the lookout for additional help, they are highly selective when it comes to choosing equipment installers and plumbers, Brandon says. So for now, the company is simply a father/son operation and a highly successful one at that.
As Brandon runs the day-to-day operations of Water Source with new, market-penetrating ideas and Greg brings the 25 years of water conditioning experience, the company has begun to explore new ways to increase its presence throughout the islands. They’re considering an office location with a showroom to display their product offerings, as well as expanding their food service and commercial solutions to the expanding markets of Oahu, Kona and Kauai. They also regularly consult on the development of new and existing water stores on the islands and supply treatment systems for those operations.
While he’d like to increase staff and expand operations at Water Source, Brandon Arnds has no desire to rush those plans if it detracts from their impeccable reputation as Maui’s premier luxury water treatment provider. Instead, he says that future success at the company will come only as a way of solidifying their already well-established successes in Maui, never at its expense.