Bob Pacheco put the brakes on his long haul truck driving career and dived into owning and operating his own salt water fish store instead. He is proving that when opportunity and passion are combined one can make one heck of a splash, for the long haul.
Pacheco, owner of the Coral Reef on 13th Street SE in Salem, Oregon, admits to being obsessive-compulsive when it comes to hobbies. “I had been a saltwater hobbyist for 20 years,” said Pacheco. “I wasn’t the average hobbyist. I had a fish room in my house with six tanks in it.”
When the previous owner of the store decided to reel in the retail end of the business, Pacheco and his wife Lori jumped at the chance. “I sold everything I owned. It was pretty sad that I only came up with $4,000, but turned that money into inventory and worked to grow my business.” Now Pacheco’s business provides fish and supplies, and maintains about twelve tanks in Salem. Doctors’ offices and busy fish enthusiasts rely on his skill.
When you walk into the Coral Reef you will find two fat cats who don’t bother the inventory and a wide colorful variety of fish. Prices for the fish range from $1.49 (for what variety of fish) up to a blue spotted sting ray named Gracie selling for $450. But beyond the fish, it’s the passion and the customer service that have customers driving inland from the coast and from Portland to talk to Pacheco about fish food and fins.
After a pay rate of miles and time on the road, Pacheco believes that his customers are generally laid
back and easy going people because they are exposed to a relaxing hobby. But that relaxing hobby is all but calm for Pacheco. From investigating fish supplies, to maintaining perfect chemical balance in the fish tanks, to deciding when the fish are hungry, Coral Reef is a full-time job. “These fish are like children. You just can’t leave your children. Every one of these animals takes a different kind of food,” he said.
“My first week at the store was nerve-wracking. We only had a few tanks and no one knew where we were. Word got out. I was scared to death that nobody would find us. But we knew back then we could keep the doors open for $66 a day” Pacheco said. “Our first $100 day, we went out to dinner to celebrate.”
“I love it with every grain in my soul. In the morning I want to go down and open my shop up. I would open the shop all night long if people would come,” Pacheco said. “When you work for yourself, if you screw up, it’s your fault. When you work for someone else and you screw up, you get fired. That is a big difference.”
“My grandfather once told me that if I could find something I loved and make money at it, I would be happy for the rest of my life,” Pacheco said. Amazingly, Pacheco hated school growing up. But for months he studied the thick Ocean and Marine Dictionary to find out everything he could. “I love investigating and finding out as much as I can about the water and the fish.”
Pacheco is growing the business. “Technology has improved and people who tried saltwater and gave up are coming “It is about keeping your water healthy. It’s not that I have a nice fish – I have a tank with nice water.”
“Did you know that the pH in your blood matches the ocean?” Pacheco said. “I believe that life started in the ocean, and for me, this passion for fish…is life.”
Bob Pacheco followed a dream and did Good today!
142 13th St. SE
Salem Oregon 97301