Joseph Vassallo, founder and president of Paragon Pools, sees each pool as a piece of art he understands the importance of framing that art for maximum effect.
That’s one reason he has worked closely with publicist and photographer Mary Vail to present the artistic work of the pools through natural unaltered images. They have worked as a team for many years.
Vassallo started in the pool business in 1988 and opened Paragon Pools in 2001. Paragon Pools caters to all clients, from small simple pools to the most lavish a client can imagine.
Paragon Pools — and Vail’s photography — were featured last month in the first Aquatic Art Exhibit curated by Kim Larkin as part of the 12th annual World Aquatic Health Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz. Two of the 10 exhibits were designed by Paragon Pools.
Q. How did your early years influence your current path?
Vassallo: As a very young man, I wanted to be an architect so I went to school in New York — one of the highly accredited high schools, Brooklyn Technical High School — and started to study architecture. Once I got out of high school, things take you in different directions and I wound up going to work for my future father-in-law in a totally different business. I worked there for like 15 years. I eventually got into my own business wholesaling Tropicana orange juice, and then sold that business and my house in New York, and moved to Las Vegas.
Q. When did you realize you had the talent for building pools?
Vassallo: I decided when I got out here, like everybody, I wanted a pool. So the guy comes in and starts trying to design a pool for me, and of course I’ve had all this training in architectural design, and I said, “Well, no, that’s not exactly what I want to do.” I kind of eased him out of his drafting chair, and sat down and started grabbing all his tools and doing all my own design. The guy looked at me and said, “Wow, you’re pretty good at this. You should think about doing it as a living.” I went, “Hmmm, that’s sounds like something I would love to do,” to get back into where I originally wanted to go as a young man. I spoke to the owner and he hired me, and the rest has been history, as they say.
Q. How did you meet Joseph?
Vail: When I moved to Las Vegas 20 years ago, we too were looking for a pool. We ended up going to the company he was with, Tango Pools, and bought our pool from them. But in the meantime I was also looking for the opportunity to get work. My husband was in the military, and I had learned from many years of picking up and moving every 2 to 2½ years that if I registered with Manpower and temp agencies, you can make a lot of connections in a city pretty quick. That is what I had done. They actually had called and said we have an opening at Tango Pools for a receptionist.
Q. How did you end up collaborating?
Vail: He found out I had this PR and marketing background and so he hired me to be his assistant.
Vassallo: I was director of sales and marketing for that particular company.
Vail: So I started work with them and started showing him how we could take pictures. We’ve just collaborated ever since.
Q. Why did you choose Mary when you opened Paragon Pools in 2001?
Vassallo: I started my business in 2001 and of course immediately brought Mary in to help me, really, just put the business together. She’s a very organized person. Aside from her qualities in PR and marketing, she really keeps her nose to the grindstone and focus. I’m the complete opposite, so she keeps me going.
Q. Why decide to have Mary photograph the pools naturally?
Vassallo: The best way to introduce our company to the community was through photographs, not words. You’re looking to buy a pool; you don’t want to read something, you want to see a pool. I recognized that immediately and knew we had to have great photographs of our pools. Mary is as meticulous in her photographs as she is in everything else. All of our photographs are very well staged; none of them are digitally enhanced. She takes the time to make sure everything is perfect.
Q. What would you say is the claim to fame for Paragon Pools?
Vassallo: Our claim to fame, if you will, is we really look at all our designs as pieces of art. Each one is individual. Many people come to us and see a pool we’ve already designed or photo on our website and say, “Oh, I want that pool, exactly that pool,” so we’ll try to keep the overall look of that pool but try to do something a little bit different so each pool is unique. So we take a lot of pride in the design of our pools, as well, of course, as the construction and function of the pool.
Q. What do you consider when designing a pool?
Vassallo: We take into consideration the entire family, the entire backyard, what is everybody looking to do, so that it’s not just a pool in the backyard but rather a living entertainment area that’s going to be utilized by the whole family — parties, friends, relatives. We just take a lot of time and a lot of pride in what we do in the backyard.