Business

"Water, water everywhere"

"It's just a rumor that Ray Hoskinson's Port Orchard store rises and falls a few inches each day depending on the phase of the moon. But surrounded by as much water and as many water-drinking accessories as he is, it's not inconceivable the tides might have a pronounced effect on his business.After 23 years as a salesman at Gray Lumber in Tacoma, Hoskinson opened Water To Go, a full-service bottled water service, at 1948 SE Lund Ave. on April 1. Since then, he's been riding the crest of a wave toward physical fitness.I think people in this part of the country tend to be more health-conscious than elsewhere, Hoskinson said. Bottled water companies do well here.Based in Las Vegas, Nev., Water To Go operates 50 franchises across the United States. Of those, 20 are in Washington State, and they are among the most successful stores in the chain.I did a lot of research before I made the decision to get into this business, Hoskinson said. I found out how their other franchises were doing, if the company backed up its franchises and whether it was worth quitting my job for. I decided it was.Hoskinson, a Gig Harbor resident, discovered the Tacoma Water To Go store three and a half years ago and hasn't touched a drop of tap water since.The heart of the Water To Go process is the water purification process its franchisees perform right on site. Through a complicated system of filtration and purification, Hoskinson's machine treats three gallons per minute of ordinary tap water - which may have a totally dissolved solids level of up to 79 parts per million - and produces water with a purity between O and 1 part per million.The result is water without chlorine, minerals, chemicals and bacteria that aren't removed at a standard water treatment plant.Even if the your water is clean when it leaves the treatment plant, it has to travel through 60-year-old metal pipes to get to your tap, Hoskinson said. How could it not pick up things that shouldn't be in there? But ours is purified right down to where there's nothing there but hydrogen and oxygen.The store is required to have its water tested monthly at a commercial lab once a month to ensure its purity, and undergoes more rigrous testing twice a year at a laboratory in Ohio.Water To Go, which doesn't deliver to its customers, costs around 40 cents per gallon - 60 to 70 percent less than delivery services charge.Hoskinson, the Port Orchard store's only employee, says business so far has exceeded his projections and is keeping him busy 12 hours a day selling water, ice, bottles, coolers, shower filters, crocks and just about every water-related accessory you might imagine.We also give everyone who walks in the door a free gallon of bottled water, Hoskinson said. We look at it as an investment. Drink one gallon of this and you'll never drink that stuff from the tap again."

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