>Oasis in the Desert: Water Store Offers Purified Water >by Darlene J. Scheel: Managing Editor, >Water Conditioning & Purification , June 1987.

If you've ever had access to purified drinking water for a few days, you know how difficult it is to go back to drinking regular tap water. Your taste buds become more acutely aware of the bad taste of chlorine and the dissolved impurities in tap water.

In one word.. you're "spoiled". You wonder how you ever got along without purified drinking water before.

Everyone in the retirement community of Green Valley, Arizona is going to be "spoiled" if Glenn Hoffman has his way. Hoffman opened a water store just five months ago and already it has become an "oasis" in the Arizona desert for many local residents.

Strategically located in a store front in one of Green Valley's busiest shopping malls, Hoffman's Water Maid distributorship attracts curiosity seekers and confirmed purified water drinkers alike.

It s not uncommon for a passerby to be intrigued by the coin-operated water vending machine which dispenses purified water after hours or by any number of other attractive displays of water treatment equipment easily seen from the store's front windows and then stop in for a taste of purified water.

You d be surprised how many skeptics just stop in to see what I'm doing in here and end up being one of my steady customers." explains Hoffman.

I have customers stopping in several times a week to fill up their bottles."

Hoffman counts on the steady traffic of mall shoppers to spread the word about the value of his water store to the surrounding community. The majority of his business is the result of one person telling another about the necessity for purified water.

"I did advertise regularly in the local newspaper for the first three months, but now I rely heavily on referrals for the bulk of my business." Hoffman plans on doing a little telemarketing and a direct mail campaign in the next few months.

While he readily admits he has a captive audience of retired people in Green Valley who are health conscious, Hoffman also points out that these same people are for the most part conservative when it comes to spending their retirement dollars.

"They're enjoying their retirement years and they're very careful what they spend their money on," Hoffman says.

At 15 cents a gallon, Hoffman's purified drinking water is a bargain compared to the 25 cents local grocery stores charge in their vending machines.

While local residents enjoy his competitive pricing, they also like the fact that he's located right in their community. "They don't have to wait days for service from a dealer in Tucson, which is 30 miles to the north."

Part of the growing success story of the Water Maid franchises is the accessibility of the stores. Location is everything as far as Hoffman is concerned. Here is where he relied on the expertise of Jerry Hamlin, founder of Water Maid Filterland U.S.A., a manufacturer of residential and commercial water treatment equipment and vending machines and the guiding light behind the water store distributorships.

"Jerry helped me locate just the right spot for my store and gave me all kinds of pointers on how to set it up." says Hoffman.

While his display area which includes his dispensing station for purified drinking water occupies center stage in his 1200 square foot store, Hoffman also has a small office area and a stock room where he stores repair parts and new units.

In addition to himself, Hoffman has one other full time salesman, an installer and a receptionist-secretary.

Hamlin and his wife, Janet operate stores in the Phoenix, AZ and also have a store in Ohio and hope to open others in Florida and Texas soon.

Obviously, Hoffman isn't going to get rich on the 200 gallons of purified water he dispenses every day in his store. He hopes that his purified drinking water customers will eventually want the convenience of having their own unit installed in their home.

In the five months that Hoffman's store has been open, he has sold or rented about 250 pieces of water treatment equipment.

"They may not decide to buy a unit immediately," explains Hoffman, "that's why I offer a rent-to-own program."

Hoffman has 125 rentals units out in the community. After three months customers can either decide to continue renting or to purchase the unit. About 10 to 15 customers exercise this option every month.

As a Water Maid distributor, Hoffman offers a full range of water treatment products.. everything from reverse osmosis units for under the sink to compact, portable R.O. units for frequent travelers and the "Office Maid" which delivers bottled water quality for the office.

While relying on the guidance of Hamlin in setting up his store, Hoffman also drew upon his own experience as the manager of a Culligan dealership for 12 years.

"I was interested in the water store concept three or four years ago," explains Hoffman, but it wasn't until I heard about Jerry Hamlin's venture that I truly got excited about it."

The public's growing concern about the quality of their drinking water prompted Hoffman to take the big step into the water store business.

"I felt the time had come to see if the water store concept would catch on."

Catch on, it has for Hoffman. Just ask the growing number of "spoiled" residents of Green Valley.