On Saturday, the Dive Shop celebrates its 50th year. Randy Wright, the Dive Shop's COO, has been with the scuba company for 25 of those years, and he says the question he gets asked most often is: "Memphis, really?" And Wright's answer is: "Yes, really."
"Memphis has a dedicated population that has an interest in adventure," he says, noting that scuba diving was the first extreme sport and that, unlike other extreme sports, it has the advantage of no crashes.
The original Dive Shop was opened by Doug McNeese in 1961 in a shopping center on Poplar across from East High School. McNeese's son Doug Jr. took over, and the store expanded to other cities. There are now locations in Little Rock; Marietta, Georgia; Joplin, Missouri; and the Memphis store on Yates, which includes a 97,000-gallon salt-water pool.
"The Dive Shop is where people go to get quality equipment, quality training, and quality advice on when and where to go," Wright says. The store hosts frequent diving trips to places both exotic, like Fiji, and closer to home, like a quarry in southern Missouri ... but never the Mississippi River, where visibility is lost at a depth of 16 inches. "You can't see anything," Wright says.
According to Wright, most everybody within the diving community has an awesome story: their first night dive and seeing an octopus change into every color of the rainbow or the first time they came face-to-face with a shark.
Says Wright of scuba diving: "It's for people who think, For fun, I like to breathe underwater."
The Dive Shop 50 Year Celebration, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday, July 23rd, at 999 S. Yates. The event will include music, tours, and seminars. diveshop1.com