John Kuhn’s childhood love of pool would inspire him to found Mission Pool Tables and Supplies, his specialty gaming store on Mission Street, just east of State. “Everything about business in Santa Barbara is service,” he explained, “so that’s what we do.”
Born on the East Coast, where pool is traditionally more popular, John started playing in high school. It became a lifelong passion. “The great thing about pool is that it is a mental game and you can retain it even if you don’t play it for 10 years,” Kuhn said. He later moved to Santa Barbara to attend SBCC and work as a reporter for The Channels.
Mission Pool Tables was established in 1981 as a purveyor of strictly American-made game products. Taking pride in the quality of his merchandise, Kuhn holds personalized consultations either in-store or at a customer’s home. Just a few of the many products customers can choose from are pool tables, cues, bars, bar stools, Italian lamps, and game tables from more than two hundred companies.
Customers can look through catalogues to custom-order their pieces of furniture by choosing from a variety of fabrics, leather, wood, and varnish. This type of service is impossible when buying from a large retail source, said Kuhn. He attributes the success of his business to the diversity of sales and rentals with different entities, including Santa Barbara hotels, Vandenberg Air Force Base, UCSB, and the Girls and Boys Clubs.
His commitment to American-made products is a practical one, as Kuhn knows that they will last for decades. The slate for the pool tables is mined in Italy and the wood is crafted to last. “There are not many things like a pool table that can last you for a hundred years,” said Kuhn. Home consultations lead to a more personalized product because varnishes and antiquing can be matched with a customer’s existing interior.
Despite the lack of advertising for the pool industry, Mission Pool Tables has been able to scratch out a business largely based on referrals from high-class customers who have recommended them for game rooms and pool halls in private homes. The professional billiards circuit has also sparked a larger market for their products over the last few years. Movies like The Hustler also provide spurts of energy for the market.
“There is just not a lot of advertising, “said Kuhn, “so the majority of our business is providing parts and service usually to those who have bought their tables in mass retail.” And that seems to be working just fine.