See the most unique front desk of any business in Rockford at Advanced Aquariums, 11 N. Main Street, but even the hand made ships bow can’t steal the show from the real stars, more than 50 different kinds of fresh and saltwater fish in dozens of tanks.
John and Heather Richardson are helped in the family business by their five children, who range in age from 13 to 21. The company celebrated a grand opening on Friday, September 24 after taking some time to settle in after an earlier move. “We have three times the space at this location,” Heather said of the new digs. “Plus we have the downstairs and we plan to propagate our own coral down there.”
The space features the creaky wood floors of many of Rockford’s older buildings and is owned by Tom Cronkright. Formerly it housed G. Wilikers and before that it was briefly a second-hand furniture store and was part of the building Ace Hardware occupied.
Advanced Aquariums moved from its earlier spot next to Peppinos Pizza at the intersection of Northland Drive and East Main Street, and the business was operated prior to that out of the Richardson’s home. “We were slow to grow but we don’t owe anyone,” Heather stated. The shop was a hit from day one during Rockford’s first ArtCapsule event, where one youngster voted for the puffer fish, even though it wasn’t one of the art event’s entries.
The other denizens of the store include a unicorn tang—a pretty blue fish with a long nose. According to Kevin, 19, one of the couple’s boys who was helping out during the grand opening, you can tell the age of a unicorn tang by the length of its “nose.”
Find helfrichi fire fish, cocoa worms, Christmas tree or feather duster anenomie within the waters of Advanced Aquarium. Clams, corals and dancing shrimp which work for their living and don’t even get minimum wage, are all fun to watch if not bring home.
Some of the fish are like family. “None of these are for sale,” Kevin said of the long tank which features coral, which are for sale and are arranged according to price, but also some of the larger fish in the store. “I’ve gotten to know these pretty well. I wouldn’t want to see them sold.” Others he is fond of, but philosophically understands that they will be moving on to new homes.
In addition to the tanks, equipment, fish, invertibrates and live corals, the extra space has allowed the business to expand to carry a line of nautical-themed gifts. “Every one knows someone with a cottage or a boat,” Heather said. “Even if they don’t have an aquarium there will be something here for them.”
Already there has been good response to the new location. “A lot of people have said this is just what Rockford needed, even though we had been in our other location for over three years,” laughed Heather. Advanced Aquariums is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by appointment. You can reach the Richardsons at (616) 884-0227 or online at cleanaquariums.com.