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Micksfish

Death of the Pacific Northwest Aquarium Store and Aquarium Culture

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Hello All, 

I haven't posted on this forum yet, but have been in the fish hobby for quite some time. I have been noticing something that has really concerned me and it just seems to be getting worse. 

I live in the greater Seattle area and have noticed that we have been continually losing our quality fish stores over the last 10 to 15 years. Especially saltwater stores. We don't even have a reef club or reef swap to anymore (the Tri Cities even have one!!).   With Red C Aquarium store closing down. We now have Dennys Pet World, The Fish Store, Barrier Reef Aquariums and a few others that make up the available retail stores we can visit between Everett and Tacoma. Sure I missed a few of the smaller shops or mixed pet shops but you get my point. We really have a limited selection. When we look at meet ups or frag swaps, this is even more limited with what is available. I remember there used to be a much larger selection of events that were held yearly for aquarium hobbyists. But it seems, with time, they keep dropping off. 

Aside from online retailers what do you think the cause of this is? You look around the US and every region has big yearly expos that bring national attention to their regions for fish and reef hobbyists. Then you look at the Pacific Northwest and it is a black hole. We need to work together to bring this back! 

I know we can be introverted people who don't like to always go outside of our house. But this is something that I dearly miss and believe many of you do as well. 

So I propose we try to work on getting ourselves back to what used to be. We need to stat supporting our local fish stores. Regardless if their prices are a bit more expensive. Soon enough, we will reach a day where you have an emergency and are unable to find a store anywhere that can assist you quickly. Instead, you have to wait two days for your order to show up, which in many cases, will be too late. 

I'm not trying to make this a personal rant, but something to wake us up to take notice of this issue and work on finding a solution. I, like many others absolutely love this hobby. As well as the people it attracts. I want to see our area known for having a great environment for aquarium hobbyists so we can bring in better stores and maybe, just maybe host an actual national expo here!

That being said, what do you all think we can do to bring this back? Do you agree with my thoughts on our dying culture here? And if so, help me to get this back on track! It will take a group to make this work so please help! 

 

Thank you! 

Mick

 

 

Edited by Micksfish
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Well I guess I'm not really in the same mindset as you. I can't attest to how things were ten years ago, but the past couple years I feel like our area has only gotten better. TPA expanded by opening a franchise, C & C has upgraded multiple times to their current amazing store! Even Bret will be opening up a brick and mortar shop next month. Not to mention the multiple hobbyists who run independent smaller scale business.

Last year Golden Basket hosted an expo with Jason Fox as one of the suppliers here in Portland. And they have plans to continue that operation.

I certainly get the feeling that our membership likes to support the local shop. Maybe things are just a bit different down south than the Seattle area. Or maybe I'm missing our true potential. Either way, I definitely agree we need to continue the strength of our local community of hobbyists, members, and shops.

Sent from my HTCONE using Tapatalk

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Welcome to the forum. I have only been active in this hobby for 8 years so I can't speak about long term but in my time o have seen many a store open and close. Part of the reasons many of the businesses failed was that people had the passion for the hobby but didn't have the business knowledge to keep it going. I think at some point those who have sold coral have thought hey I could do this but then forget that having a tank is a luxury item and like all luxury items they are at the mercy of the economy. You're going to take down your tank before you lose your house or cancel your health insurance. If you don't you have bigger problems .?

I was surprised to see reef frontiers close down a few years ago and to hear that Bob Moore was being run by clubs outside of Seattle. 

I feel like  in Portland /Salem area we have shops that have been around a long time including  Upscales and Golden Basket and some newer shops that are doing well. Part of this is their adaptability to all the new pressures and all the new technology. For example the use of Facebook.

I feel like right now our club is at an upswing with great involvement and engagement from all the members as well as the store owners. I am also impressed with how there is a sense of collegiality among he store owners and less of a competitive vibe. 

There were times in the past when I felt like some store owners resented sale threads because they felt like we were competing with them. Jeff at Cuttlefish and Garrett at TPA don't mind at all as they know it brings more people to their store and I end up using that money to buy more coral from them!?

Travis at Upscales also told me that he noticed he was busier when there were more shops becaise they bring more people into the hobby and ultimately that's good for everyone !

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I think it also has to do a lot with the people involved with the community. 

Emerald makes a good point with Upscales, that when there are more stores, you see a larger community because it gets noticed more. If there isn't a lot of stores in your area, the reefing community has to compensate. If there isn't either, I have a feeling you'd likely see a decline. 

Anyway, I am sorry to hear that there have been a lot of stores closing down in the Seattle area. I know that it can be hard to keep a business going, especially type that we are in. If you ever feel like you would like to have someone to talk with...PNWMAS is here for you. 

Also, Oregon has some pretty amazing stores. :)

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I must confess that I get really jealous with all the action that Oregon seems to have. I live really close to BRA and they have always treated me well, years ago when I got into the hobby and recently when I got back involved. I know there are things that I can get online but I try to buy most of my stuff there for the very reason that I want them to succeed and stay open. I feel that the education I get at a good LFS is well worth the extra few dollars I spend. I'm sure I have been saved hundreds based on the free information I get. I guess we need to just keep on frequenting our LFS and evangelizing the hobby.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Stugots said:

I think this article is on point. Paletta writes about how to save the LFS. 

This is a great article and speaks to a LFS needing to be adaptable in changing times. One word advice I would give to local stores that happened in the past was to try to stay positive. I understand when times are stressful and you're not sure if you can support your family that it is easy to bash another store or someone who is selling onine or even a hobbyist who is selling on the forum but like the article mentioned we are not the real competition. It's better if we can work together to find solutions to get stores more business like the store tour we are doing. I also agree that making hobbyists feel guilty for buying something that is 50% cheaper online doesn't work either. The store would do the same. If they can get a better contract with the same reliability they are going to go with the cheaper option. This hobby is very expensive it's natural for people to want to cut costs wherever they can otherwise you will see another thread where someone is taking down their tank.

As far as the Seattle area, I cannot speak to what is happening there.

I was really sad to see Reef Frontiers go down and the PSAS disband. I was hoping we could collaborate more.

I was also hoping to see Bob Moore come back another year.

Don't lose hope though, a few years ago this forum had it's own growing pains and activity was at a cricket pace but over the past 2 years it is starting to build up.

 

In my opinion negativity and finger pointing can really stall momentum and it sounds like that's a bit of what happened with Bob Moore. 

 

All you really need is a small group of passionate hobbyists to get the ball rolling again. That's how I got involved in the first place. There were things that I wanted to see happen so I did what I could to make that happen.  Which reminds me, elections are currently running and please speak up if you are interested in being a part of the team. It does take time but it is a lot of fun! :) 

 

 

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Lots of great feedback on here.  I don't know that I could add much but rather just echo much of the thoughts already expressed.  I think Kim's point about avoiding the negativity - between vendors, club members, customers etc. - is really key and seems to be true of our local community.  I was out of the hobby for many years but still would show up at one of our local stores (C&C) on a regular basis just to try and stay connected in some way.  Despite the fact that the owner and staff knew I didn't have a tank running, they still always took the time to talk to us and share information.  5 years later, I am a customer again.  I think that kind of dedication and willingness to invest in long term relationships is probably an important aspect of surviving in the current climate and perhaps speaks to some of the reasons why we seem to still have several successful local shops.  Since returning from my reefing hiatus, I have been pleasantly surprised by the level of collaboration and cooperation across the spectrum of the community.  I think that the close relationship between the club and vendors (and a very active and engaged leadership group) has likely played a pivotal role in fostering this attitude.

Not sure what the story is up north but I could see how it would be easy to have things fall apart if the community became fragmented or disengaged... thankfully, PNWMAS and some very dedicated local store owners seem to have kept that from happening here and I am grateful for that.

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1 hour ago, Emerald525 said:

I was also hoping to see Bob Moore come back another year.

In my opinion negativity and finger pointing can really stall momentum and it sounds like that's a bit of what happened with Bob Moore. 

All you really need is a small group of passionate hobbyists to get the ball rolling again. That's how I got involved in the first place. There were things that I wanted to see happen so I did what I could to make that happen.  Which reminds me, elections are currently running and please speak up if you are interested in being a part of the team. It does take time but it is a lot of fun! :) 

I didn't know it wasn't coming back :( That's sad.

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1 minute ago, milesmiles902 said:

I didn't know it wasn't coming back :( That's sad.

Well there is hope but the Spokane and Couer D'Alene society will not be running it again this year. That was posted on the FB Bob Moore site. It's possible if the Seattle folks can mobilize which is possible because there are a lot of great members up in that area that I have met which is why it surprises me that there is not as much involvement.

It is sad because it was such an awesome event.

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Who is Bob Moore?  I guess I will look it up, but still catching up on stuff here. 

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8 minutes ago, Stugots said:

Who is Bob Moore?  I guess I will look it up, but still catching up on stuff here. 

lol I personally don't know him but he passed away and the Seattle area has a Frag Swap more like a coral expo every February in his honor.

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Oh that Bob Moore. Thanks, and may he Rest In Peace. 

On another note, I hope our sponsor LFS owners see this Paletta article. What struck me is how hard it is for them to stay afloat and the deep passion that must drive them to keep going despite long hours and low margins. Much appreciated LFS owners!! Best of luck and all my support. 

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Great thread. You guys have covered most of what I would add to this discussion but having run my own business for five years (in another industry,) I would like to add to and reiterate what some of the others have said.

1. It's not enough to be a knowledgeable fish and invert person, you also have to have the discipline and business acumen to get the business built and open, resist the urge to keep flaky hours when you feel like taking a day off or sleeping in, plan a budget and stick with it, hire and manage knowledgeable employees who are also disciplined and honest, promote and advertise (although with social media this is much easier and less costly than it used to be,) and find reputable vendors who send you livestock that is healthy, well-cared-for and helps protect your bottom line. Running a business is not for the faint of heart but you sure do find out a lot about yourself in the process.

 

2. Deep enough pockets to open the store and keep the doors open. In addition to the significant expenses of finding a site, painting and building infrastructure, paying first and last (at least,) buying merch, livestock, tanks, pumps, lights etc., you also have many other expenses, such as an accountant, an attorney (at least in the beginning,) monthly and quarterly taxes (the quarterly payroll taxes are murder,) licensing, state permits, etc. You also need to have enough working capital to keep the joint open while you're building your business. Also, if you're not there, you have to pay someone to be there for you ,when you're open.

 

3.) No matter how well you run your business and how lucky you get with good staff to help you run it, you're never really off the clock. You're always thinking about how to build and promote your shop, sweating having enough cash to cover expenses and make loan payments, wondering why sales were down 18% last quarter and so on. All that said, you also have to have time away from the operation occasionally to maintain perspective and quality of life. The worst part of being burned out is everyone around you knows it long before you do.

 

4. You're the last one who gets paid. Everyone else has to get paid before you do. You can get by working seven days and making little or nothing for a while but you have to make enough to live eventually.

 

5. You must be lucky enough to have an engaged local community of hobbyists who like and believe in your business and will go a bit (or a lot) out of their way to buy locally and spent a bit more to make sure their local resources are there for them when they need it. PetCo, PetSmart, and others don't give a [language filter] about their regulars but I promise you that the vast majority of LFS owners do. The good ones have a vested interest in making sure that you're successful and make client education part of their business plan.

 

So many factors come into play. You have to be very good and more than a little lucky to make it and it's a tricky confluence of factors to manage even if you are good and lucky. 'Nuff said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks everyone for your input. I've been into fish in and around this area since I was 9 (now 28). I never really posted much on the different forums or attend some of the meetings (so I do partially blame myself for not doing a better job at supporting the local scene when I was a bit younger). Now seeing all the other regions in our country have such booming scenes, I just wanted to get a conversation going to see if we can identify and maybe reverse this pattern we have been seeing. 

I also a completely agree that there have been many positive steps taken in this area. And forums like this one are the reason why. 

 

So what do you think we can actively start to do to grow this awesome hobby? I know we all can't collectively own a fish store (though that would be cool, huh?). 

I might just be out of the loop, but do we have a monthly or every other month meetup? Or a tank tour where different members go to different user's house and check out their tank's and talk about the hobby? 

 

I know it shows that I am a novice poster on here, but I have been pretty successful for some time in fresh and saltwater. If anyone has an ideas on how I can personally help, I would be all for it! I have came to realize I want to be more active in our scene. 

 

Honestly, thanks again for all your feedback. Seeing the feedback this has gotten in the last 24 hours brings hope in itself!

 

Mick

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Great thread. You guys have covered most of what I would add to this discussion but having run my own business for five years (in another industry,) I would like to add to and reiterate what some of the others have said.

1. It's not enough to be a knowledgeable fish and invert person, you also have to have the discipline and business acumen to get the business built and open, resist the urge to keep flaky hours when you feel like taking a day off or sleeping in, plan a budget and stick with it, hire and manage knowledgeable employees who are also disciplined and honest, promote and advertise (although with social media this is much easier and less costly than it used to be,) and find reputable vendors who send you livestock that is healthy, well-cared-for and helps protect your bottom line. Running a business is not for the faint of heart but you sure do find out a lot about yourself in the process.

 

2. Deep enough pockets to open the store and keep the doors open. In addition to the significant expenses of finding a site, painting and building infrastructure, paying first and last (at least,) buying merch, livestock, tanks, pumps, lights etc., you also have many other expenses, such as an accountant, an attorney (at least in the beginning,) monthly and quarterly taxes (the quarterly payroll taxes are murder,) licensing, state permits, etc. You also need to have enough working capital to keep the joint open while you're building your business. Also, if you're not there, you have to pay someone to be there for you ,when you're open.

 

3.) No matter how well you run your business and how lucky you get with good staff to help you run it, you're never really off the clock. You're always thinking about how to build and promote your shop, sweating having enough cash to cover expenses and make loan payments, wondering why sales were down 18% last quarter and so on. All that said, you also have to have time away from the operation occasionally to maintain perspective and quality of life. The worst part of being burned out is everyone around you knows it long before you do.

 

4. You're the last one who gets paid. Everyone else has to get paid before you do. You can get by working seven days and making little or nothing for a while but you have to make enough to live eventually.

 

5. You must be lucky enough to have an engaged local community of hobbyists who like and believe in your business and will go a bit (or a lot) out of their way to buy locally and spent a bit more to make sure their local resources are there for them when they need it. PetCo, PetSmart, and others don't give a [language filter] about their regulars but I promise you that the vast majority of LFS owners do. The good ones have a vested interest in making sure that you're successful and make client education part of their business plan.

 

So many factors come into play. You have to be very good and more than a little lucky to make it and it's a tricky confluence of factors to manage even if you are good and lucky. 'Nuff said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excellent write up and you nailed everything on the head there to a T.

 

 

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Micksfish.....i'm going to let Emerald525 answer the questions in your last post. She will answer more eloquently than I.

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@Micksfish, we hold monthly meetings and participation is fantastic down here in the Portland area. If you ever want to venture down, details get posted in the meetings section of the forum. The 15th is our April meeting, which is a store tour of the area with raffle prizes at each stop. Some of us are going on a party bus, and some are tagging along in their cars, as the bus filled up rather fast. Next month, the meeting is a presentation on fish disease and quarantine, if I recall correctly. Check back for info.

Day tours of home aquariums are a little tougher to coordinate, so they tend to happen informally in smaller groups.  I've been on a few with friends I made through the club here. 

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11 hours ago, MrBret said:

Micksfish.....i'm going to let Emerald525 answer the questions in your last post. She will answer more eloquently than I.

Thanks for volunteering me Bret LOL I do sleep sometimes and have a day job. I know it's hard to believe since I'm on here all the time!:tongue:

Mick it looks like Cherany did a great job in answering your questions! Thanks Cherany :highfive:

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