By Melvin Bui
Bob’s Tropical Fish Store is a family run business that has been a hidden gem in the East Los Angeles community for the past eight decades.
Tropical fish stores have been a dying business in most communities due to the accessibility of supplies from online retailers which leaves stores with a declining customer base.
The store is run by the Pornpitayalert family. They have been in the fishkeeping business for four decades and have been at the same location since 1989.
It was ran by Mr. Pornpitayalert until he retired. His sons, Jason and Jackson have taken over the business.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not affected the business since they were deemed essential. Pornpitayalert said there have been more customers coming in to the point where they have to limit the number of people inside of the store to ensure social distancing.
The name Bob’s Tropical fish store was from the original owner that had opened the store during the 1940s. The shop has gone through four owners in its 80 years.
The store was built before the Pomona 60 Freeway was constructed through Monterey Park and East Los Angeles.
Pornpitayalert said that the main reason fish stores have been closing is because the lack of knowledge and care.
Fish store owners should always know more than their clients because it makes the look incompetent when they aren’t able to answer questions.This can cause stores to lose credibility and customers in the long run.Pornpitayalert said that owners are to blame for the dying business and hobby, not the customers.
Pornpitayalert said that customers come in regularly to chat, look around and to talk about fishkeeping. Some customers buy Reverse Osmosis (RO) water multiple times a week for their fish tank since they aren’t able to get purified water at home.
“We’re fortunate that it hasn’t affected our business. With shorter hours and closing Mondays, we’re blessed that business hasn’t changed and continues to grow,” Jackson Pornpitayalert said.
Bob’s Tropical Fish Store specializes in both freshwater and saltwater fish, along with invertebrates like snails and decorative shrimps.
There is always a large variety of plants and fish to choose from since they always get weekly shipments.
Pornpitayalert said that if customers were to stop coming in, they would still get shipments of live goods to keep in stock.
Pornpitayalert said that they easily carry hundreds or thousands of different species of livestock at their store.
This would include all of the living things in their display tanks and breeding tanks in the back room.
“We still get weekly shipments but our biggest problem is the lack of supply. Prices have been increasing since air freight has gone up. We already see the increase in prices of live stock,” Jackson Pornpitayalert said.
Pornpitayalert said there isn’t a problem with getting shipments of dry goods, however the cost of livestock has already tripled in price because there are less flights coming in every week, there used to be multiple flights a week, but now there’s just one.
“The price of livestock has noticeably increased for customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, however when the air freight prices start to decline so will the prices,” said Jason Pornpitayalert.
They are one of the only two Aqua Design Amano (ADA) retailers in socal, which makes them carry special fishkeeping items that aren’t found at typical pet franchises and fish stores.
The second ADA retailer is Nature Aquarium, which is located in Culver City.
Bob’s Tropical fish store caters to aquascape enthusiasts that yearn for specific goods that their local stores do not have in stock.
Aquascaping is the aesthetic placement of plants, rocks or driftwood in an aquarium in an attempt to replicate natural habitats.
The store does not have a parking lot, so customers must park in front of the Chevron. Information and pictures on new shipments are posted on their Instagram page @bobstropicalfishla and Facebook page @BobsTropicalFish.