by CLIFF and NANCY HILL
On February 15, 2007, John and Heather Richardson moved Advanced Aquarium Services from their Rockford home to a storefront location in Rockford at the corner of Northland Drive and East Main. Little did they know that the country was about to begin a downward economic spiral.
Sunday, February 15, Advanced Aquariums celebrated their second anniversary. Customer response to the opening of a high-end aquarium store specializing in an ever-changing selection of vibrant saltwater fish, coral, and invertebrate has been nothing short of phenomenal. The Richardson’s story is one of success and they are thrilled that their business has not only survived these times, but has thrived.
The store offers a nice selection of supplies and equipment to support aquarium needs. In addition, the Richardsons can professionally install and maintain a tropical fish aquarium in your home, restaurant, office, or waiting room.
“Aquarium locations are limited only by one’s imagination. In a home setting an aquarium provides, relaxation, education, and entertainment. In a business, a well-kept aquarium enhances company image and makes wait time more enjoyable for clients,” said John. John points to Ed’s Restaurant in Howard City and locally, in Rockford, the dental office of Steven Dater, DDS as two of many business clients.
Watching fish has been clinically proven to reduce stress, stimulate brain activity, and lower blood pressure. Receptionist and Office Manager Bonnie Davidson, at the Dater Dental Office, said, “Patients, especially the kids, love our beautiful 60-gallon tank located in our waiting area. For many, especially children, a visit to a dental office is quite stressful. The display of tropical fish and live coral seems to have a calming effect on everyone.” She also added, “John often sends prospective business clients over to view our installation in a business setting. We love the attention it brings to our office.”
Because of Advanced Aquariums success in spite of the economic storm battering the country the Richardsons have decided to add, for the first time, a new line of freshwater tropical fish and related supplies. “We are doing this as a stepping stone for folks who have always wanted to get involved in the hobby but don’t have the means to go the saltwater route,” Heather noted. To accommodate these freshwater ‘critters’ John has almost doubled the size of the sales area of the store by opening showroom space in the basement.
The Richardsons have been busy these past few months thoroughly cleaning, painting, and decorating the unused lower level of the store. Lighting, shelving, additional aquarium tanks, along with new water supply and drain lines were added.
Part of the newly added space is used to quarantine newly arrived fish to make sure they are healthy. Each new arrival is placed in its own individual aquarium and observed for a two week period to assure it is healthy and disease free. Only then is it introduced into an aquarium with other fish. By doing this, the Richardson’s can guarantee the health of their livestock when sold. “Our business has been successful because, as owners, we have set high standards which we continually strive to meet and keep,” said John.
Through constant education and research, John and Heather have taken what was once for them a hobby and grown their dream of owning and operating their own successful small business into a reality. As an example of their proficiency they are able to propagate their own coral in the store. Fifty percent of the many varieties of coral they stock and sell have been grown in house.
“Customers from all over Michigan say they are thrilled with our selection of saltwater livestock. They tell us it is, by far, the largest they have ever seen on display,” adds Heather.
Now a family of four can pay $34 to take in Under the Sea 3-D currently playing on the IMAX screen at Celebration Cinema and see many of the same tropical fish, coral, and invertebrates stocked by Advanced Aquariums. Or absolutely free, you can take the family, come in out of the cold, and be welcomed by the Richardsons into what they call ‘Key West.’ Along with regular customers, they encourage first time visitors to browse and view, in real life 3-D, the store’s 79 aquariums without any sales pressure. The Richardsons are founts of information and encourage any and all questions.
While visiting the store make sure you see the ‘Dream Room’ aquarium that houses a variety of tropical fish and coral supporting the star of the tank, a 6-inch long Porcupine Puffer Fish. Displaying beautiful blue eyes and a constant smile that’s contagious, she glides around the tank looking for something to get ‘puffy’ about. In her travels, a Three-stripe Damsel Fish often escorts her.
Readers wanting to escape our never-ending winter may want to attend the upcoming Home and Garden Show at DeVos Place, March 5 to 8. As in past years, John and Heather will be there sporting their trademark tropical shirts while representing Advanced Aquarium Services. They welcome you to stop by booth #67, say “hello,” and ask them about their newest line, Marineland’s Deep Dimension Aquariums.
In Rockford, Advanced Aquarium Services is located at 346 East Main on the SW corner of East Main and Northland Drive (right next to Peppino’s Pizza and one half block north of the Rockford State Police Post). Store hours: Monday through Friday, 3 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, 11 to 4 p.m. The phone number is (616) 813-1159.