“I always had a saltwater and freshwater aquarium,” Michigan native, Doug Van Wyck, says of his early interest in aquatics.
Van Wyck earned his scuba certification at 12. A few years later his dad took him to Florida to dive, in addition to his local lake diving. After high school, he spent four years as an active-duty Navy diver, and then earned his Bachelor of Science degree in international business from Old Dominion University. While in college, he worked at a pet store.
“That’s how my business started,” he says. “It helped me get back into the hobby after the Navy.”
A pet store client saw a picture of Van Wyck’s aquarium and wanted him to build one for him. That got the ball rolling, and in 2007, Superior Reef was born. Superior Reef’s expertise lies in saltwater and reef aquariums. Van Wyck ran the business while in school. When he graduated from college, the business was thriving. Today, he is an Air Force reservist on active orders in the intelligence community and works the business with full-time employee, Chase Moore.
“Chase is very knowledgeable with saltwater and reef aquariums and that’s where my expertise lies,” Van Wyck says. “He is like an encyclopedia for African Cichlid aquariums.”
“Most of what I know comes from working with animals,” Moore says. “20 years’ experience goes a long way.”
Superior Reef services aquariums for approximately 40 businesses/homes around Hampton Roads, with a few clients maintaining more than one. Clients request weekly, bi-weekly or monthly visits. A few call periodically for what Van Wyck calls a sanity check. Those who choose a monthly visit realize many issues can occur in that length of time.
“People often want us to set up the aquarium, service it and get it up to a standard,” he says.
A Chesapeake orthodontics practice is working with Van Wyck to install an aquarium in a rock wall. A contractor will build the in-wall support and Superior Reef will install the aquarium, the plumbing, fill it with water, get it cycled, install the invertebrates and fish.
“We keep most of our tanks stocked,” Van Wyck says. “We ensure they have a good invertebrate package (corals) and fish.”
“He’s so conscientious and so good,” Candy Snyder who, along with husband Bob, hired Van Wyck to install their custom-built 150-gallon reef aquarium. “You just really need somebody who knows what he’s doing and Doug does.”
Superior Reef’s clients come from word-of-mouth, Google searches, its van advertising and referrals such as those from The Reef Room in Newport News.
“Many clients are hands off and simply expect their aquarium to look nice and clean,” Van Wyck says. “Many want to come home, relax, open a bottle of wine and watch the fish.”
Most of the aquariums serviced by Superior Reef are in homes of clients who work a 9-to-5 job, and their questions come when they return home. Always on call, Van Wyck has received calls at three in the morning about a leaky tank. Fortunately, he can occasionally diagnose the problem over the phone and save the client the expense of a visit.
“More than anything,” Van Wyck says, “what separates us is the quality of the product and our willingness to take on any project.”
One client, Gary Bevins of Bevins Roofing, has eight aquariums in his office and seven at home.
Van Wyck says client satisfaction is his proudest achievement.
“Most clients don’t want to touch corals. That’s what my business thrives on,” Van Wyck says. “When someone says, they love what we do, it’s very rewarding, especially when we have an aquarium that kids love in a school.”
In addition to his love of scuba diving, Van Wyck enjoys playing sports and following sports teams, primarily from Michigan including the Detroit Lions and the Detroit Red Wings.
Before Van Wyck and wife, Shambry, had daughters—Abigail (5), Ava (3) and Evelyn (1)—they did several overseas dive trips annually. They knocked Brazil, Columbia, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, The Philippines and China off their bucket list.
About his business, Van Wyck says, “We pride ourselves in taking on aquariums with coral and mega-expensive fish.” Van Wyck says. “I understand that aquariums are important to people. They spend a lot of money and expect them to look great. That’s what we focus on.”
TO THE POINT:
Address: 5309 North Point Ct.,
Virginia Beach, VA 23455
Contact: Doug Van Wyck