By Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
Old Town Lansing Times staff reporter
In a world where the economic markets are failing, it is hard for owners of small businesses to maintain their businesses while competing with megastores. However, there are places that are sustain just by small, local businesses — Old Town Lansing is one of these places. According to the Old Town Lansing business directory antique stores, restaurants, clothing stores, pet stores and creative companies have stayed in Old Town Lansing. But, why Old Town Lansing and not Downtown Lansing or any other community? “The rent is cheaper than downtown for the most part and that could be a starting point,” Old Town Commercial Association Executive Director Austin Ashley said.
Rick Preuss has a dream, a dream for our planet, our oceans, our wildlife and for our community. His vision is to inspire others to save our earth, and since he opened Preuss Pets in 1982, he has worked to make this dream a reality. “To have a reef tank in a classroom or in a living room where a child is growing up so they can identify what coral is, what a clown fish is, what an anemone is … that’s the value of this business,” said Preuss, the owner of Preuss Pets in Old Town Lansing. “The best we can do is to hope that these bright, young minds witnessing these reef tanks will be inspired to protect the resources that are out there.”
In the Lansing community, saltwater aquariums are gaining popularity, thanks to Preuss, who says that anyone can establish an aquarium at home. Since the opening of Preuss Pets, Preuss has inspired hobbyists, students and school children alike to take up an interest in these fascinating underwater microcosms.
“Every customer can be successful and every costumer can grow their own coral to a full size coral,” Preuss said. “You’re really just providing consistency and as long as you provide that, your corals grow on their own.”
Janet Riefer, an East Lansing resident who was introduced to indoor reef-keeping by Preuss, started her own saltwater aquarium eight years ago. She said that having her own aquarium is like having a little piece of the beach at her home. “I love everything about it,” said Riefer. “I love looking at it, I love cleaning it, I love rearranging it, I love sharing it with people. It’s like indoor gardening!”
As for the upkeep of the aquarium, Riefer insists that it’s really not much work. “People say that it’s expensive and hard to keep and all those excuses, but I disagree,” said Riefer. “I started with a tank we had at home and everything else I’ve bought, I’ve bought from a used equipment room that Rick has.”
And the myth that saltwater aquariums are expensive is also false. Preuss Pets sells coral fragments which grow relatively quickly (about an inch a month) for about $15.