This is a Re-Post and a Belated Throw-Back-Thursday.
Have added a few photos.
After having accumulated a little money during my three years’ working in the Sinai Desert (Sinai Field Mission), I decided to come home to Texas. My wife (the first one) and I settled in Nacogdoches resolved to open a tropical fish store. A dream I’d had since I was a kid. I had never been to Nacogdoches, but according to U.S. News & World Report, it was one of “The Ten Best Places to Live in the United States” and the city fathers had even erected a billboard on the main road into town proclaiming this quote from the magazine, just in case some folks missed reading that issue. Nacogdoches, for any non-Texans who may be reading this, is Ass-Deep in the heart of the Deep East Texas Piney Woods—gorgeous country, simply breathtaking. ‘Paradise On Texas’.
We leased a small building on South Street, which was the southern part of the main drag through town, just off the square. Wanting everything to be perfect, I spent the entire summer of 1980 fitting out the inside of my shop. I built all the fixtures, assembled all the equipment, and even built the office desk my wife would be using to keep the books. I built floor-to-ceiling rustic cabinets to display the sixty aquariums which would hold our retail stock. All that could be seen were the fronts of the tanks; no filters, hoses, wires or anything to wreck the ambiance.
The overhead lights were dimmed, keeping the atmosphere what one would expect in a fine Public Aquarium, most of the light coming only from the aquariums themselves. At the very back of the store, I built a nine-foot by three-foot display tank, roughly 600 gallons—it was built into the wall, again so as not to ruin the effect. This was my dream aquarium, showcasing all the skills I had honed over a lifetime of fish-keeping. It was decorated with huge driftwood, rocky multi-leveled terraces, and no less than two dozen different varieties of live plants. The effect was that of looking into a cross section of the Amazon River. Beautiful Blue Discus, shoals of Cardinal Tetras, various South American catfish, and many other exotic South American species were all stocked in this display. It was the perfect closed ecosystem.
The retail stock tanks were also painstakingly decorated to provide examples of how fish should be kept in a home aquarium. No burping clams, no rotating ship’s wheels, no deep sea divers with bubbles coming out of their butt, no ‘Creatures from the Black Lagoon’, no ‘No Fishin’ signs—none of this dime-store shit in MY Shoppe. Oh Hell No. Every display reflected my fundamental conviction that tropical fish deserved to be represented in natural surroundings. Period.
Our store was beautiful. I set up five large display tanks in the entrance area, so that the first thing our customers would see were aquariums as they should be: All Natural: Live plants, Real Driftwood, wonderfully terraced natural gravel substrate, and of course exotic tropical fish. No goldfish, no guppies, no ‘trash fish’—for those they could go to Wal*Mart or Ben Franklin’s.