Owners mark their 30th year running Neptune's Gardens

Oct 20, 2015

posted by Howard B. Owens:

Start a business and make it well into your second year and you're doing better than nearly 20 percent of the other people who tried doing the same thing. Make it to five years and you've lasted longer than nearly half of your compatriots. How about 30 years? Well, the Small Business Administration doesn't publish those stats, but does tell us 75 percent of new businesses are closed by year 16.

And in the age of speedy delivery from computer to doorstep, it gets even tougher on retail businesses.

That makes 30 years of owning Neptunes Gardens for Nick and Cathy LaFarnara quite an accomplishment.

Nick said customer service and an ongoing effort to diversify what they offer has helped them survive, especially against growing Internet competition.

Just this past Thursday, as an example of going above and beyond for a customer, Nick said he drove nearly 150 miles to retrieve a saltwater aquarium filter and deliver it to an elderly customer after she tried unsuccessfuly to purchase it at Petco.

"It's stuff like that, you kind of bend over backwards to try to make ends meet," Nick said.

A big part of their business now is live bait, and they do well in the summer with goldfish for fairs and carnivals, and stocking fish for residential and commercial ponds.

Nick's father opened Neptune's Gardens at 33 Liberty St., behind the Pok-A-Dot, in 1967.

Nick and Cathy's daughter, Jamie, works in the store now and will likely run it someday, but Cathy thinks a fourth generation is already eager to take over.

"Our grandkids are already involved," Cathy said. "One time we had a customer looking for a fish and I was, 'I don't think we have it,' and Victor, I think he was 6  years old, said, 'Grandma, we have it.' He took the lady right to it."

Now 9, Victor has a way with reptiles in the store and he thinks nothing of walking around with a snake wrapped around his waist.

"He probably sells more reptiles and snakes than I do," Nick said.