A JOURNAL OF CONTEMPORARY IRISH & IRISH AMERICAN AFFAIRS
Winter 2020 / VOL. 20 ISSUE 1
McCoy Keeps On Movin’ Between Pools, Bikes and Surfing
By: James Bartlett
After graduating from USC with a degree in business administration in the Entrepreneur Program, she initially wanted to own a bar or restaurant but ended up buying a swimming pool service company “because the hours were better.”
Starting out just cleaning pools, she soon realized that the “real money” was in repairs, so she turned her company into an all-round service. “I named it Pineapple Pools because I want to retire in Hawaii, and it’s a constant reminder of my goal,” says McCoy, 56.
Pineapple quickly expanded, and she hired more people.
“I became the go-to repair company for all of the major pool equipment manufacturers and ended up doing all the warranty work for them. We’re one of the largest service and repair businesses in southern California.”
In 2001 she purchased a construction company, as she was also moving into pool renovations.
“We’ve grown too since then, and we’re now one of the major builders to the movie stars in Hollywood,” she said, laughing as she politely refused to name some of her famous clients.
“We also do complete backyards including all hardscape, BBQs and outdoor kitchens, wood shade structures or pergolas, landscaping, pool houses, and basically the complete outdoor entertaining space. McCoy promised that ‘If you can dream it, we can build it.’”
That doesn’t mean it’s all, to steal a line from “The Beverly Hillbillies” theme song, a life of swimming pools and movie stars.
Even with the glamorous-seeming job of being in the Hollywood Hills creating amazing pools with zero edge effects or infinity pools that hang off the hillsides, there are some very tricky moments.
“The most difficult pool I’ve ever built was one where we first had to build a road before we could even get our equipment in – we had to import dirt just for that. Then we had to drill 27 holes around 45-55 feet deep into the bedrock, which were all connected by grade beams.”
The resulting infinity pool was 45 feet long by 12 feet wide, and had a view over all of Los Angeles. The cost was over $1.5 million, and afterward they had to dismantle that road and remove the dirt. It was worth all the effort, though, because it won the Masters of Design Award.
“I look at my pools and yards as pieces of art, and I consider myself a watershape artist,” she says proudly, adding that she knows her pools will be here long after she has gone.
Despite being born in Southern California, McCoy sounds like she has a strong Southern accent. “Yes, everyone says that. It’s because my mother was from Texas, and I’ve been listening to her my whole life!”
But as her name makes clear, her ancestors are Scotch/Irish.
“My grandfather migrated from there. I don’t know much about my past, as my older relatives have passed on, but I did some research on Ancestry.com and it showed I was mainly Irish. My mom did it too, and she came back as Irish and English.”
According to Wikipedia, McCoy is indeed a common surname of Scottish origin, but also with an Irish (Gallowglass) origin. It’s an Anglicization of its Irish form Mac Aodha, meaning “son of Aodh” (an old word for “Fire,” a Celtic deity). The name is often found in Ulster (especially the counties of Antrim, Armagh and Monaghan), and also in Limerick and Cork.
She has not visited Ireland, but it’s on her “bucket list.”
“I want to trace my ancestors and see my family heritage. I also want to see the green landscape, study the architecture and kiss the Blarney Stone!” she laughed, adding that as a keen golfer, she also “wants to play all the courses in Ireland, too!”
With around 15-25 projects on the go at any time, it’s no surprise that McCoy is an early riser.
“I get up at around 4:30 a.m., go to the gym by 5 a.m., and am gone by around 6.15. I shower and start the day by answering phone calls and emails, and then I visit each pool I have under construction to check the progress.”
Hollywood uses tons of fake snow – you’ll have seen plenty of it in the countless Christmas movies recently – but in California, occasional water rationing in hot weather throws a spotlight on another special effect: year-round green grass.
In 2015, Kerri McCoy was interviewed about this technique, which is regularly used by movie studios, realtors, golf courses and football fields. She had seen an uptick in regular homeowners wanting her to spray a batch of her non-toxic, vegetable-based dye across their lawns.
Today, she’s working on far bigger projects – though they’re still very Californian.
Born and raised in Santa Monica, this self-confessed “surfer girl” grew up on the beach, and her company Derian Pools designs and installs swimming pools and outdoors recreation areas.
It’s the perfect job for McCoy, who happily admits that she “would never live anywhere else. I love it in Los Angeles.”
She’s home in Simi Valley by 5 p.m. “It’s a little further inland from the beach,” she admitted, “but a better place to raise a family and own a home.” McCoy, a divorced mother of Marcus (19) and Bradford (22), then visits her favorite pool and spa – the one in her backyard.
Even when she’s not working, McCoy likes to be surfing, hiking, BBQing or seeing friends. She is also a keen rider, and loves going out dirt biking or with the all-female Harley Davidson bikers’ club.
“I live to be outdoors feeling the
sunshine on my face. That’s what makes working so hard all worth it,” she says.
As for the future, McCoy wants to travel more. She recently visited the Maldives for a surfing adventure, and was in Mexico City over the New Year. In 2020, she’s also going on a cruise through the Panama Canal, and has a dream to ride horses in Iceland.
She wants to retire in the next decade or so, and feels like her life “is the proof of the American dream. Where if you put your mind to it and work hard you can achieve anything.”