Pier 701, Exceptional Store/Owner
By James Gasta
I was invited by
Kirk Brown to visit his store, Pier 701, and do an interview and photo shoot of
his operation. The following article are the results of the interview.
Nothing fancy here, just healthy fish
Kirk started his
business in April, 1995. When asked how this developed, He responded,
"When I started dating my wife, she had a 30 gallon freshwater tank, always had
problems with it." He then upgraded everything through mail-order stores
and in a short time it became their first saltwater aquarium which later grew to
a 120-gallon reef. He began reading everything he could get is hands on
regarding marine aquariums and their care. Shortly after, he began an
aquarium service business which he ran out of his home. Soon, he had ten
accounts he was servicing. Later, he met a fellow marine aquarist and
developed a friendship with him. They talked about how there were no
full-blown marine aquarium shops in the area and wondered how a business like
this would take off. His friend’s father-in-law happened to own a store
that was vacant and shortly after they opened the business called Reef
Encounters. The name had to be changed later due to a conflict with an
on-line store using the same name. Three months later, his partner who
worked at Dow Chemical decided that the business was too much on him since he
worked days and helped run the store in the evening. Kirk agreed to buy
out his share, quit his job as a baker and make a living at this. The
store quickly filled with tanks, stands, supplies, etc. Pier 701 was soon
known as “the place to go”.
A 120 Gallon Reef, One of Kirk's many
accounts. Customer's tanks like this one supplied many coral
Summer months were
slow at the shop and another venture was needed to increase income.
Outdoor ponds were taking off at the time and Kirk decided on adding this
offering to his business. The aquarium service part of the business had
now expanded to 72 accounts involving numerous hours per day. Help was
hired so Kirk could spend more time setting up another venture…live corals.
At first, many of
his corals were fragments from corals that were overgrowing in customer’s tanks
and needed to be thinned out. Six three hundred gallon vats were ordered
and put in place. Three would house live rock, soft and hard corals ready
for sale along with crabs, snails and other invertebrates. The other three
would be for fragments in development, both hard and soft, along with a nice
variety of clams. Many of the corals were cut from large show corals
that he could not sell due to high cost, and the softies soon began spreading
like weeds in the large vats. Now they are trimmed on a regular basis and
attached to live rock ruble for future sale. Most of the stoney fragments
are placed in “rose holders” that were obtained from a local greenhouse and
placed in eggcrate for upright support, others are expoxied to small pieces of
live rock. Under 400- watt halides, growth is rapid. Water changes
are done on a weekly basis to restore trace elements needed for growth.
The only supplements used are two part calcium and alkalinity products and
|Images of the 450 gallon
display tank owned by Outdoor Adventures and maintained by Pier 701.
The beautiful cherry hood over this tank houses four 400W metal halide
lamps. Some of the inhabitants include (clockwise from top right): A
large bubble coral (Plerogyra sp.), a large Frogspawn (Euphyllia
sp.) and a large finger leather (Sinularia sp.)
I did ask him for
his opinion on the following subjects.
He feels that the
wet/dry systems are the way to go, promoting excellent gas exchange and
aeration. The average customer will buy a 70-90 tank and will soon want to
put as many fish as possible in the system. The wet/dry will handle large
bio-loads, and is versatile as it offers a place for skimmers, heaters. Poly
Filters and other chemical media. He never recommends putting skimmers
outside the sump due to the risk of overflow and an angry wife!
Multiple UV Units used in fish
UV’s are highly
recommended by Kirk. With higher bio-loads, outbreaks can occur caused by
unnoticed temperature and water parameter shifts and the UV will help
immensely in this regard. He has noted that corals do better with UV.
When UV is moved into a system where corals are declining, three to four
days is all that is needed for the corals to open and regain their health.
All his tanks are protected with UV sterilization with the exception of the
vats. UV is used here when needed, not by choice, but by economics.
Kirk is a big fan
of VHO lighting. In 55, 70, and 90-gallon tanks you can easily have 440
watts of light. He knows of no PC fixture that puts out this wattage in a
four-foot fixture. Many different color temperatures are also offered in VHO
systems. His opinion is that all soft and most LPS corals will live and
grow under VHO lighting of the proper wattage. Kirk feels that "proper attage"
is a minimum of six watts per gallon.<Editors' note: "watt per gallon"
measurements are considered somewhat subjective.> He favors PC
lighting for 30-36-inch tanks. Tanks with a 24-inch depth or more,
MH/HQI lights are his recommendation for keeping SPS/LPS corals. All the
display vats use multiple 400 watt MH lighting fixtures.
Kirk will only sell difficult fish
like this powder blue tang to experienced aquarists.
“Most stores will
sell you anything you want to buy”, laments Kirk. He looks for long-term
customers, and fills their head with knowledge and awareness. " I won’t sell
Powder Blue Tangs, Copperband Butterflies and the like to newcomers in the
hobby. Eventually these customers will gain knowledge, then wonder why I
sold them the fish in the first place." He feels that many of the fish available
from wholesalers are species that will rarely live for a year maintained
by the average aquarist. He wants his customers to enjoy their
tanks, not replace fish every month. Kirk also feels the same way about
coral: " I don’t even stock flower pot corals but will order for advanced
aquarists with large systems and want to experiment with them."
Additives used in
Kirk’s systems are two part alkalinity/calcium supplements, Lugol’s iodine,
Kalkwasser all on a weekly basis. No other supplements
are used other than an occasional dose of magnesium. The water parameters
in his systems are:
|Alkalinity 3.2-3.6 Meq
|Tiers of cubicle displays
and four 300 gallon holding systems contain a huge variety of livestock.
Those interested in
visiting the store should plan on using Map Quest or other navigation methods
as it is located "off the beaten path". When one walks in, he is
immediately magnetized to the huge 300-gallon vats filled to the brim with live
rock and corals. Don’t expect fancy oak counters and display racks here,
but you can expect to see some very healthy corals and fish. Choosing rock
and corals for stocking 120-gallon tank would hardly put a dent in his supply.
Most retailers I’ve visited rarely have enough to nicely stock a 70-gallon tank.
Three large show tanks were being set up while I was there, and I’m sure they
will be masterpieces as were the tanks I visited from two of his accounts.
In another area there are tanks full of very healthy colorful fish. This
isn’t a place where you will be in and out in ten minutes as there is just to
much to look at. At the end of the interview, I was given a nice frag of
Candy Cane coral that is doing very well. Thank you Kirk, for your
hospitality and a very enjoyable visit.
|Kirk Sizing Corals, Initially Kept In
is located at:
Street Midland, MI Phone: