SPRINGFIELD — Rick and Kim Sass regularly travel to exotic locations around the world to swim with sharks, stingrays and other aquatic life.
However, the couple always docks in the Battle Creek area.
In fact, the anchor is literally outside the scuba business, Sub Aquatic Sports and Service, at 347 N. Helmer Road, where customers are greeted with a one-year-old Poodle mix.
The Susses, who have run a retail business specializing in scuba gear, instruction and travel for 42 years, stepped away from their day-to-day operations earlier this year to take an advisory role under the new owners of the dive shop, Diventures Inc. I was.
Around 2018, Kim and I started quietly talking to each other. I said, ‘Let’s finish at 40,'” Rick said. Then came March 2020 and everyone knows the story. Luckily, one of our sales reps passed our name on to Dean Hollis, who buys well-run dive shops across the country. ”
In January, the couple sold the business to Diventures Inc. founder Hollis. The Nebraska-based company was founded in 2009 by him, and now he has 12 locations nationwide with the addition of Sub Aquatic Sports and Service, and now has a footprint in Michigan. The Sasses existed until the store took over management until it was officially retired on June 30th.
“The most appealing aspect about them was the travel aspect,” says Hollis. We are obsessed with our customers. When I watch travel shows, I’m willing to spend my hard earned money on vacations with you, turning friends into customers, customers into friends, and trying to develop a great sustainable business. You’ll want to see people…customers love them. I want them to be involved as long as they want, as long as they want. ”
Sasses continues to lead groups on many trips, including those that were backlogged due to travel restrictions amid the pandemic. They lead diving all over the world, but they say some of the best diving can be done in Michigan.
“This month we are taking a group of wreck dives one weekend at the Straits of Mackinac, another weekend at Port Sanilac, and the next weekend at Whitefish Point,” Kim Sass said. “We have 11,000 inland lakes and the Great Lakes, and the water is so cold that shipwrecks are preserved compared to saltwater dives.
“I think it’s retirement, but we work. But it’s a lot of fun to work,” she added.
The business started when Rick Sass was working at a sporting goods store in Kalamazoo. When he was leading a group on an excursion to Micronesia, he was approached by a doctor about starting his own business specializing in travel and scuba diving.
Sub Aquatic Sports and Service began in 1980 on the doorstep of Rick Sass’s home in the Urbandale area. He quickly acquired an investor.
At the time, Kim Sa-soo was working in the respiratory department of the now-closed Albion Hospital when a friend recommended scuba diving to her. I was there.
“He was wearing a bright orange dry suit and I thought, ‘Who would wear that in public?’” recalls Kim Sas. I started diving and he told me to work for him for one summer… I quit the hospital and wasn’t going to be in the hospital for 38 years, but I did . I love to travel and this is a great job. ”
The couple opened their current shop in Springfield in 1989, selling and renting scuba gear, filling air tanks, and teaching scuba certification. They also did some restoration work.
Dventures’ business model includes retail, education, and travel, plus a number of swimming learning programs for children and adults. Hollis said the company typically requires about two acres of land to build a comprehensive facility so it can have its own pool, and currently has only about one acre of land for sub-aquatic sports and services. There is none.
Due to space constraints, Dventures is exploring potential locations in the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo areas, Hollis said.
The Sasses say they no longer have to fill air tanks, deal with expense reports and supply chain issues, and are excited about the next chapter in their lives, with more travel and diving.
“I’ve been to Grand Cayman (Bahamas) 60 times and see something different each time,” said Rick Sass. “If you are observant, you will never get bored because you will always see something new. Great job.”
Please contact reporter Nick Buckley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 269-966-0652. Follow him on Twitter: @NickJBuckley