So I live in central NJ and am fortunate to have two LFS
within about a 5 mile radius of me. One is Pet Shanty in Scotch Plains, NJ - I use them all the time. They're always patient, experienced, knowledgable, and perfectly happy to spend hours talking shop - even if it won't always result in a sale. They're happy to discuss techniques, practices, ways they do things, how I could do things better, what corals I'd be most successful with: they know my setup, even though it was purchased elsewhere, and they are generally a PLEASURE to work with - and have been that way since the first time I set foot in the shop.
Up the road is Ocean Gallery 2 in Bound Brook, NJ. As compared to Pet Shanty, Ocean Gallery is a much prettier shop. Lots more fish in stock (they don't even stock freshwater, only salt), and tons of tanks of corals, frags, zoas etc. I decided to give them a shot today, as I was in that direction and needed some assistance, and also wanted to purchase some frags. First of all, I witnessed their fish guy telling an obviously inexperienced teen that yes, of course, a copper banded butterfly would look BEAUTIFUL in his 14 gallon tank and would get along great with his clownfish (thankfully I overheard this and once the fish guy walked away I spoke with the kid quietly and made some alternate suggestions). When the fish guy returned I asked for what I needed: I had brought in a water sample and asked for them to do a calcium test for me (I explained that I had a new test kit and that my calcium level measured far higher than I'd expected). The gentleman told me that he didn't know how to do a calcium test (I very audibly responded with "wait, you WHAT?!") and took me to the front counter where I was told that they were "too busy" , that it was "just the two of them" and that a calcium test was a "long process".
Needless to say, I walked out rather miffed (I tested three times the night before in under 5 minutes) loudly commenting to my son that this is why we ALWAYS shopped at pet shanty.
Drove over to Pet Shanty (despite having been there yesterday and both they and I knew they had nothing I needed or wanted to buy) and asked if they would mind doing a calcium test. They very cheerfully did so, setting my mind at ease and also showing what true customer service is about.
I won't say I'll never go back to Ocean Gallery. Their frag prices are excellent for large frags...they have a wide variety of zoanthids that can't be found elsewhere locally,however they will certainly never get the kind of loyalty from me that their competition has. I can't imagine running a LFS
and telling ANYONE that I was too busy to do a basic water test for them. Pet Shanty may not have the bells and whistles that OG does, and I sometimes have to order corals or fish that I want...but Charlie at Pet Shanty goes out of his way to help his customers. He's quarantined fish for me before, and never once has he ever sent me away saying he was "too busy" to help me out.
I would strongly encourage anyone in the area to check out The Pet Shanty - ask for Charlie and let him know that Mitch sent you his way. It probably won't get you a discount or anything, but I like him to know that I send folks his way whenever possible, as my way of saying "thank you" for being a GREAT lfs