Bozeman-based Mountain Hot Tub entered the new year under new ownership, as its longtime general manager, Kelly King, bought the business late last year and took over in January.

“The bank was really happy to help me get it. They saw everything that's going on,” King said. “We're in a great market. We've got a great product with a great history and now we have the market share. And we have a vision.”

King spent about 18 years soaking up the hot tub business but didn't feel ready to take over the company until co-founder Tom Walker decided to retire and told King to start preparing to sell the company.

Part of the preparations involved hiring business consultant Leslie Cunningham and learning the employees' vision of the company.

The 20 employees at Mountain Hot Tub's four stores around Montana saw the company as making a difference in the community. Seeing the employees' pride helped King form a vision of Mountain Hot Tub's future.

“Watching everybody get excited about the business again got me excited again,” King said. “Our staff had created a vision for the company, and I felt very inspired to lead the charge, to be part of that.”

The company saw about 20 percent growth from the end of the Great Recession in 2010 to 2012, and it grew another 20 percent last year, said Walker, who started the business in 1979 with his boyhood friend Scott Smith.

But productivity went “through the roof” after the employees gave their input, King said.

It showed itself in different ways, one being that the company now services hot tubs no matter what brand or where they were purchased.

Walker said the company has also become more involved in community events, such as the Presidents Plunge, where for more than a decade Mountain Hot Tub has provided a tub to warm up participants. The company also sponsored the Thanksgiving Huffing for Stuffing race, providing a private hot tub party for the largest group to run, which happened to be the local nonprofit Girls on the Run.

“(We didn't think) it through well, that the largest group might be pretty big,” King said. “We had probably 30 little kids running around soaking in the hot tubs… It was awesome.”

Jason Bacaj may be reached at jasonb@dailychronicle.com or 582-2635.

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