With vacations canceled and public pools and beaches likely closed or restricted this summer due to COVID-19, Long Islanders are creating their own vacation spots in their backyards, buying up pools and accessories in record numbers.
Pool store owners and builders said that they are getting an unprecedented amount of requests from those looking to either buy an above-ground pool or have an in-ground pool constructed in their yard. On Amazon, where you can buy an inflatable pool for $25 or an above-ground pool for $4,000, sales of pools doubled for April over last year, a spokesperson said.
Rob LoDolce, 45, of Lindenhurst, said that while at Big Lots in West Babylon a couple of weeks ago he witnessed a truck unloading pools and people “panic-buying” them.
“Pools are the new toilet paper,” he said.
The next time he saw a Big Lots truck unloading, LoDolce snagged himself a 14-foot pool.
“I figured if it’s going to be a staycation for us this year, why not have at least something to dip your toes in,” he said. “It’s your home oasis.”
Pool builders and sellers say homeowners are desperate to make their yards their own private escape this summer.
“I have never, in the 35 years of me being in this business, seen this number of people who want pools,” said Troy Berliner, owner of Coastline Pools & Spas in Huntington. “And all of these people want it now . . . it’s crazy, I can’t keep up with the demand.”
Carlos Cuevas, owner of CCD Construction Corp in East Meadow, said it’s not just pools that people want, but patios, firepits and other backyard features.
“It’s out of control,” he said. “My phone rings 85 times before 12 p.m.”
But pool sellers said the demand is so high that most homeowners probably will not be swimming until August or September at the earliest.
Part of the problem is that pool building has largely stopped or been limited by municipalities due to state restrictions because of COVID-19. Rules vary by municipality, but all in-ground and most above ground pools require permits. Towns officials said they are not yet seeing a surge in those requests but some are already contemplating ways to expedite the process.
Some municipalities can take as long as six weeks to approve pool permits, Cuevas said, and with construction halted for so long, even some of the jobs he lined up for spring haven’t been finished.
“A lot of people aren’t going to get their dreams fulfilled this season and it stinks,” he said. “But what people don’t understand is they’re calling Disney World in November trying to book a trip in December.”
Those who already have pools have been opening them up earlier this year, looking for some diversion from home quarantining, pool service companies said.
Joanne Romanelli, co-owner of Paul Romanelli & Son Pool Service in Blue Point, said the company is opening up 15 pools a day — some as early as March — a 30% increase over the same period last year.
“If they can’t go on vacation, can’t send their kids to camps, what are they going to do?” she said. “They’re going to stay in their backyards. Kids can be entertained in a pool for a very long time.”
Dominic Figurito, 66, of West Babylon, opened his in-ground pool in mid-April, which he said “kind of push started the summer” and helped put him “in a better state of mind.”
“I know that this is going to be one of the leisure things that I can do safely,” he said. “I’ll be in my own yard, in my own pool.”