When your products are constantly moving—literally—no two days at your store are ever the same. “Running a fish store, it’s very unique and fast-paced. These are live animals, so this is basically controlled chaos,” says Greg Housley,
owner of Kennesaw, Ga.-based aquatics retailer Optimum Aquarium. “There’s always
something that can go wrong with a pump or a leak or a shelf falls down or an angry
customer, which does happen, though not very often.”
Add on dealing with competition from big-box stores like PetSmart and Petco,
other specialty aquatic stores and internet retailers, and it’s a wonder how small,
independent pet retailers like Housley stay on top of it all each day.
For more than 12 years, Optimum Aquarium has been doing just that, providing Atlanta-area customers with a wide variety of high-quality products and aquatic
livestock from around the world. Housley himself has been in the pet retail business
for more than 30 years. What began as a job while he studied marketing in college
turned into a job in aquatic wholesale, and then finally his own specialty retail store
in early 2004.
“It was kind of a wandering path, but I’ve been in the pet business my whole adult
life in one way or the other,” says Housley. “When I first started working in a store
when I was younger, I didn’t really know a whole lot about fish. It just clicked with me
and I got good at it. I was really lucky to make a career out of it.”
Starting the Day Swimmingly
At Optimum Aquarium, every day begins with a round of chores—cleaning each of
the 24 tank systems, checking on the more than 100 species of fish and preparing
the 4,000 square-foot store for customers—before opening the doors at 10 a.m.
Upon entering the store, shoppers are greeted with a friendly, “Hi, can I help you?”
along with the sound of bubbling water filters, chatter from customers and some
classic rock music playing over the speakers.
Running an aquatic-focused pet store
every day is challenging, especially
in the age of the internet. But Greg
Housley shows how great customer
service is still the key to success in the
BY CARLEY LINTZ Sharks