It’s a tale as old as time: Someone gets so addicted to reef keeping that their mind starts exploring ways they could actually make a living from it. This is the first article in a series for those who want to live the dream.
Michael Paletta has a great article on Reef Builders about getting into the LFS business. He has assisted and consulted with numerous reefers over the years who wanted to open their aquarium store, so he has a better understanding than most of what it takes to be successful.
It’s not a how-to article; it’s a here’s-what-you-need-to-know-first article. He goes into great detail about everything from finances, to selecting a location, to staffing, to deciding what exactly you’re going to focus on — and much, much more. For many, it will be more than enough to make them consider a different route.
Staffing is a huge consideration that Michael doesn’t spend a lot of time on in his article, and it’s an area where we have personal experience. Regardless of what you do for a living, you need to be able to step away from the business to refresh and recharge. You may think you wouldn’t mind working on your passion all day every day, but it can get old fast. We know an owner of a renowned LFS who is really struggling with that. He has been working 14-hour days every day for several years, and it’s taking its toll. He’s learning firsthand the advice that Michael mentions and that Ilya Pozin has written about:
[Y]ou should not make your hobby your job as this often leads to you not having either.
That’s not to say an LFS can’t be a great business, though. Jorge Medina — whose store, Pure Reef in Alpharetta, GA, is pictured above — has been running aquarium stores with his wife Angela since 1986. He had three different successful stores in succession (two in the Atlanta area and one in Augusta) before retiring to enjoy the good life. That lasted a whole year before he came back to Atlanta and got back to doing what he loved 😀
And we all know of great LFSs, so it can be done. Michael’s wisdom is just great food for thought for anyone considering that route for living their dream.