Nahacky’s Combines a Passion and a Profession

For Dave and Lisa MacDonald, diving head first into the aquarium business all began with an ad in the back of a magazine in March of 1986: “Nahacky’s Aquarium, 312 Babcock, Melbourne, FL. We are original owners in the same location 25 years. 2,300 square feet prime commercial property with four buildings on corner of main thoroughfare also available. Owners wish to retire. Reply with SASE and financial status.”

At the time, the MacDonalds were living in Vail, CO with their two young children. Lisa was a travel agent; Dave was in the property management business, but he had a passion for fish tanks. They were looking to make a move and decided to take a chance.

In 2011, the MacDonalds celebrated their own 25th anniversary as the owners of Nahacky’s Aquarium, which is now located at 1613 S. Harbor City Boulevard (on U.S. Hwy 1). It’s the premier aquarium business in Brevard County, offering an exotic array of saltwater and freshwater fish, along with live rock and corals and an extensive pond department.

The Evolution of the Business

Though Dave ran the store much of those early years so Lisa could spend time with the kids, the business began to evolve as Lisa began spending more and more time in the shop, bringing her own unique skills to help enhance what they can offer to the customer.

A Florida Master Gardener and a member of the Aquatic Gardeners Association, Lisa has a passion for aquatic plants. She has helped them expand their pond department with a number of lilies and other plants that can help turn a pond into something special.

Dave is the fish expert who can not only give advice about aquariums, but also brings in a steady supply of fish from around the world to ensure there is something for every kind of customer – from the person buying their first tank or the fish aficionado looking for something new.

Their daughter Katie has now become a big part of the business as well, serving as the store manager and helping them develop a presence on the Internet. She also can serve as the tiebreaker on those rare occasions when there is a disagreement in the shop.

Growing Pains and Learning Experiences

While it all runs as smoothly as possible now, there were of course the inevitable growing pains along the way. After all, the MacDonalds had never run a business before, much less one that kind of works like a hardware store and a produce department – sometimes even a chapel for fish – all wrapped into one. People don’t come in to buy one thing and leave. Aquariums can become addictive, meaning customers also want help keeping their fish happy. Should a fish die, it can sometimes be like losing a member of the family.

When the MacDonalds bought the Aquarium from Tony and Helen Nahacky, Helen stayed on for a month as a consultant. After that, they were on their own. Dave soon learned that what he liked – and what sold – could be two completely different things.

Take the Diving Sea Dog, for example. Attached to an air pump (and wearing a spaceship helmet), the dog floated up and down in the tank and came in a variety of colors. “My concept of the hobby is natural – and I have yet to see a diving dog out in nature anywhere,” Dave said. “This was my first lesson. My (sales) rep brought me three or four of them and I looked at him and said, ‘That’s foolish. Who the hell is going to buy them?’ He put it up on my counter and, before he left the building, somebody bought that thing. I kind of went, ‘Oh, so that’s how it works.’”

The MacDonalds don’t just serve customers; they serve generations of customers. People who bought their first tank from the Nahackys forty years ago have turned their hobby over to their children.

From an ad in the back of a magazine to 25 years in business, the MacDonalds must be doing something right. “We stumbled into it, and it worked,” Dave said. “We learned as we went along the way.”