Val Toland: Jumping in With Both Feet
By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter
CONCORD — As an officer in the Air Force, Val Toland had been contemplating a long-term career in the military. However, following a spontaneous visit with a relative, he found himself poised to jump into an entirely different livelihood. “In 1979, I was stationed in Omaha, Nebraska, when my wife’s mother unexpectedly passed away,” he remembers. “After attending the funeral in Washington, we drove down south to get out of the snow and stopped in Pleasanton to visit my Uncle Joe. He had just started a pool company about six months earlier, and he asked if I’d like to come out and help him build the business. When I got back to Omaha, I looked around at the three-foot snow drifts and thought, ‘I liked it there in Pleasanton.’ Plus, things had been getting awfully political with the military, which had me second-guessing my plans for a long-term career. After giving it some thought, I decided to resign my commission in the Air Force, move my family to California and get into the pool business.”
Today, as owner of Classic Pools, Val says his favorite part of his job is making his customers’ dreams come true. “That’s no exaggeration—I really do get to make dreams come true! Many families, especially those with kids, dream about having a pool, so the fact that I get to make that a reality for them is very rewarding. I love going to a job every day where I get to be creative and make people happy.”
A resident of Clayton (where he lives with his wife, Cathe), Val says the weather and topography of the Bay Area make it equally lucrative and challenging for a professional pool builder. “There’s a lot of demand here, including both residential and commercial applications, so we stay busy. With all the hills, building pools here can be very challenging, but I enjoy the challenges and seeing projects come together from our hard work.”
Outside of work, Val divides his free time between leisure activities and community volunteering. “I’m LDS by faith, and I’m heavily involved in my church, as well as the local Boy Scouts troop,” he explains. “I’ve been working with young men for about 14 years now, and I enjoy teaching them life skills like respect, etiquette and integrity.” Val also likes to travel and visit family. “My wife and I have several children and grandchildren, most of whom are spread out around the country, so we take a lot of RV trips to visit them. We also try to go on a big trip every year to Hawaii or some other destination.”
In his life and career, Val espouses a philosophy passed down from his grandmother. “When I was a boy, I used to visit my grandparents on their farm, which was out in the boondocks,” he remembers. “My grandma used to say, ‘If you never turn anybody away from your door, you’ll always have food for your family.’ It always impressed me that, despite living in the middle of nowhere, she had faith that if she provided for others, she’d be taken care of. Today, I continue to apply that philosophy to my business. I have faith that if we take care of our customers, the financial aspect will take care of itself.”
When asked what his future retirement might look like, Val says he’ll have no trouble staying occupied. “After my son, Shane, takes over the business, I’ll probably still help run the sales end, just to keep myself busy. I’d also like to do some more traveling, as well as some missionary work. After all, there’s a whole world out there to see.”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: What’s your favorite restaurant?
A: Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Walnut Creek.
Q: Are you a dog person or a cat person?
A: A dog person.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
A: Catch up on little projects and chores around the house that I usually don’t have time to do.
Q: What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
A: My children.
Q: If you could time travel to the past or the future, where would you go?
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A: I’d go to the past and try to correct an injustice or prevent a tragic incident from happening.