Amanda Shaftel and Aaron Weiss were looking forward to a busy spring.
But when their April wedding was postponed, their trips were canceled and business at Weiss’ company, One Story Productions, slowed due to the coronavirus pandemic, they found themselves with extra time to finally carry out a long-envisioned home renovation — transforming their South Austin backyard into "an oasis."
They installed a stock tank with a filtration system to serve as a swimming pool centerpiece and posted photos on social media. Almost immediately, they received inquiries from people who wanted one, too. Last week, after three months of planning, their new endeavor, Cowboy Pools, officially went public.
"The pools are stock tanks that are normally used for watering cattle, but people have been DIYing them into backyard pools or ranch pools for a long time," Weiss said. "The name comes from cowboys taking a dip on the ranch after a hard day’s work."
The confluence of 100-degree temperatures and increased time at home due to the pandemic has led to an unprecedented increase in demand for both above-ground and in-ground pools, with companies like Amazon reporting shortages and long shipping times across the country.
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Cowboy Pools, which provides pumps, maintenance kits and installation for its pools, which start under $2,000, sold out almost immediately following its soft launch.
Shaftel said people are realizing that a pool is not quite the unattainable luxury item it once was.
Jennifer Kassell, founder of Understated Leather who is originally from Australia, said she knew she wanted a Cowboy Pool as soon as she saw photos online.
"I need a pool. I live in Texas," she said. "We’ve been saving for my dream pool, and this was kind of like a simple solution for now. But even when I get my pool, I’m going to keep (the Cowboy Pool), because it’s so great."
She said the installation of her 8-foot pool took about four hours, adding that the pool was delivered just before her son, Sway, turned 2 last week.
"He’s obsessed," she said. "He was asleep when they installed it, and when he woke up I’ve never seen him so excited."
Amy Hageman, owner and founder of Texas Tiny Pools, said she’s seen inquiries for her pools triple this summer compared to last summer. Hageman, who specializes in small, custom concrete pools — many of which come with a retractable deck — said the coronavirus has caused people to reevaluate their priorities.
"This pandemic is really changing how we look at home, how we view our home time and our willingness to invest in home," Hageman said. "A lot of people are reaching out saying, ’I’ve always wanted a pool, now I’m stuck at home. Please give me a pool tomorrow.’"
The process for installing one of Hageman’s custom tiny pools takes about 90 days and starts around $50,000, and she likes to liven up the process by celebrating milestones, such as permitting, with Champagne or doughnuts. Her goal is to give people a beautiful place to cool off, no matter how small their space.
"A lot of people call me because they don’t think they can get a pool. They kept being told (their space was too small)," she said. "Or they want to keep their yard. ... It’s neat when people are like, ’How did you get a pool back here?’ Those are my favorite, when people think it’s impossible. I’ll bring in my tiny equipment and we can get it done."
Shaftel said she expects interest in pools to continue, especially amid the pandemic.
"Making your backyard an oasis is definitely something we’re passionate about. That’s how to make this time bearable," Shaftel said. "If you can just enjoy your home and have some nature and an oasis to escape to, that’s how you get through this."