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New Wave

Water stores that cater to budget-minded, health-conscious families are making a splash.

Fredrick Bozin's product has no taste. And that's just fine: Tastelessness is, to him, the very point--although his product is also pure, economical, and usable in every household in his selling area.

What's Bozin selling? Try water. That's right; the inventory at his Watermarket store in Fallbrook, California, consists of gallons of clear, clean, inexpensive water. While other entrepreneurs try their hands at new, cutting-edge products, Bozin and a groundswell of water retailers like him are selling a product as old as the hills.

Devoting an entire store to water isn't as strange as it sounds. Water is a hot commodity. Why? People aren't entirely satisfied with the water that comes from their taps. Sure, it's supposed to be safe. But in some cities it's brown. Or it smells. Or it has particles in it. And who knows what secret lead or silent carcinogen lurks undetected in your glass?

Traditionally, the alternative has been bottled water. In 1995, Americans consumed some 2.7 billion gallons of bottled water--a whopping 1,025 percent increase over 1975 figures, according to the International Bottled Water Association. (And that doesn't even include water sold out of stores like Bozin's because statistics for this sector don't yet exist.) But standard bottled water is rarely cheap. In some areas, five gallons of home-delivered water cost $7.50. At the market, the least-expensive generic brands sell for 50 cents or more.

Bozin's water, by contrast, costs a mere 25 cents a gallon. And Bozin says the quality is as good as or better than more expensive alternatives--a claim his customers seem likely to back. On an average day, he sells between 950 and 1,100 gallons in spite of the fact that Fallbrook has a population of just 32,000. Bozin's secret: value, service and genuine quality. "Our water is very clean," he says, "and it tastes good."

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This article was originally published in the January 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: New Wave.

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