By Carlos David Mogollón, WC&P Executive Editor

Bret Petty and the business that’s evolved into Indianapolis’ Aqua Systems share more than just familial affiliation. They were both born in the same year—1959. That’s when his father, Lou, launched an independent dealership in Danville, IN, west of the capital city. It became a ServiSoft franchise in 1964.

Petty, who’d worked at the dealership since he was 14, became president after graduating from Indiana University in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in business. That was the same year the Marmon Group bought ServiSoft and the dealership chose to go independent again as Aqua Systems. A short while later, it began assembling its own softening, reverse osmosis (RO) and filtration systems, later contracting out for ROs with Water Factory Systems and Clack Corp. In 1989, it moved to nearby Avon into a new 25,000-square-foot building. With offers from Culligan and USFilter in 1997, Petty opted to stay independent and brought in local investors to buy his father out of the business and secure his retirement. That year, he acquired three dealerships and consolidated them into a new northeast office in Fishers, Ind., and he built a new 25,600-square-foot manufacturing and distribution center in Avon. A southside retail store opened in Greenwood, Ind., in 1999—effectively splitting the Indianapolis market into thirds. In the past three years, Aqua Systems also added a bottled water plant, a portable exchange DI regeneration operation and a commercial/industrial (C&I) division to broaden its clientele base and reinforce its “One Source” motto—”Everything You Need for Your Water.” He brought on board Larry Owen and Nevin Rudy to spearhead the C&I effort. They do work for Eli Lilly, the IU Medical Center and a slew of automotive manufacturers that helped give Indianapolis—which also showcases the Indianapolis 500 auto race—its name as the “Crossroads of America.”

While its OEM operation makes up only 20 percent of the $11 million business, it’s growing rapidly. The company has doubled in size in the last four years and expects to break $12 million in revenue this year. Products are sold mostly in the Midwest, but are distributed as far as Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. New products in 2001 are expected to include high efficiency softeners.

Petty, 41 and a Water Quality Association board member, talks candidly about the competitive pressures facing both assemblers and dealers, including the squeeze on mid-level outfits from continuing consolidation in the manufacturing and dealer base, and new channels to market such as “big box” mass retailers, water utilities and the Internet. He also discusses the importance of the WQA’s Water Quality Society, materials safety, certification and ethics.

For the full interview with him, go to WC&P’s website— https://wcponline.com—and click on the “Executive Q&A” button. You can also read prior interviews with PHSI’s Craig Story, Pentair’s Jorgé Fernandez and Water Tec International’s Leigh DeGrave.

Aqua Systems/New Aqua LLC
Corporate Office, Bottling & Retail Store
7785 E. Highway 36
Avon, IN 46123
Tel: (800) 447-5582 or (317) 272-3000
Fax: (317) 272-5000
Email: b.petty@iquest.net
Website: http://www.aquasystemsonline.com

Other facilities:
Manufacturing/Distribution Center
Avon, Ind.

Retail Store
Fishers, Ind.

Retail Store
Greenwood, Ind.

Principals:
John F. Ackerman, Chairman
Doug Conner, Secretary
Jim Smeltzer, Treasurer
Bret Petty, President

Operations
Assembly, distribution and retail sales of residential, commercial and industrial products. Services: design, installation and maintenance of water treatment equipment—water softeners, filtration, high purity and drinking water systems; bottled water, and portable exchange DI regeneration. Works direct with end-users locally and through resellers and dealers in extended markets.

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