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Keeping Shop... Shop’s Décor Highlights Pristine Aquariums

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Larry Wood and Phillip Chau at Pristine Aquariums. Customers say visiting the shop is like coming to a museum.

<i>Keeping Shop is a regular feature of the Gazette Packet. To qualify, retail shops should be locally owned or operated; new, expanding, celebrating a significant anniversary or doing something otherwise newsworthy. To nominate a business, contact Nina Tisara, ninat@tisaraphoto.com. </i>

<b>Short bio: </b>

I grew up in the Northern Virginia area. I went to Columbia Elementary, Holmes Middle School and Annandale High School and then graduated from George Mason University.

<b>Why did you choose this particular business? </b>

This whole idea of fish started out as a hobby. Like many kids I was fascinated with fish but knew very little about how to care for them. I'd nagged my mom time and time again for fish and on those occasions when she did purchase them, I wasn't content on just having them in a bowl. I wanted to be fancy and water-change them, clean the bowl even when it wasn't needed and every time as I water-changed, my goldfish would die off, one at a time, hour by hour. From then on, I was determined to figure out what I was doing wrong and learn how to have them thrive. Throughout high school I worked at local fish stores and it was fun learning and interacting with customers. So, with my business partner and with a lot of support from families and friends, determination and a plan, here we are.

<b>Why did you choose to work for yourself rather than as an employee for someone else?</b>

It wasn't so much I didn't want to work for someone else, as I did after college as an account executive for a list brokerage firm. It was more of let's try and do something special and see what can happen. Opportunities don't always come knocking and we believed we had a solid plan so we moved forward.

<b>What have you learned from being in business? </b>

I remember working for other companies and it was a Monday or Tuesday and I would think to myself "Oh geez, there's four or three more days until the weekend," like it was a long time to wait before couple days off. Well, it's definitely a wake-up call now, days off!? That's a novel idea. I recall a day in the middle of October and I said to someone, "I'm excited because we get a day off, end of next month, it'll be Thanksgiving!"

Looking back now, those three or four days before the weekend arrived didn't seem all too bad at all! But it's all relative, mentally and physically the day off is much needed. On the other, that's one less day of business.

<b>What have been the advantages and/or disadvantages of operating a business in Alexandria? </b>

Tough to really say on the advantages and disadvantages on the operational side considering we're still relatively new in Alexandria but the people are great. Mayor Euille stopped by and visited the store, the residents have been wonderful in their support!

<b>Description of services and/or products: </b>

Pristine Aquariums offer freshwater and saltwater fish, invertebrates, corals and live plants from all parts of the world along with aquariums and all other related supplies. Aquarium installations and maintenance of aquariums is available upon request. Please visit our Web site for inquiries.

<b>Key Staff:</b>

Our store manager Richard Christiansen is also one of my best friends. We go back to elementary school — in the same kindergarten class to be more specific. Growing up we worked together at various places so he's very experienced in the hobby. We also have Richard and Emily — always ready to provide excellent customer service.

My business partner Larry Wood is the layout designer of the store and it is the décor that makes this store so unique and he continually seeks creative ways to make the store an even more enjoyable shopping experience for hobbyists. Many customers have told us it's like going to a museum and that is attributed to Larry's great creativity in the store designs.

<b>Professional affiliations/associations:</b>

I was a member of the Washington Area Marine Aquarist Society prior to opening the business and now Pristine Aquariums is one of their sponsors.