If underwater photographs of exotic locales appeal to you — not to mention food, music, and all things diving — don't miss The Dive Shop's half-a century birthday celebration coming up Saturday, July 23rd, from 1-5 p.m. at 999 South Yates Road.
Clearly those kinds of photographs appealed to Doug McNeese Sr., who first thought of opening the store in 1959, while watching the old TV show Sea Hunt with his son Doug Jr. At that time, McNeese owned three stores dealing in records, jewelry, and toys. But he couldn't resist the lure of diving. He closed those businesses, learned to dive, and in 1961 opened The Dive Shop in a shopping center on Poplar across from East High School. To keep the company afloat in the early years, McNeese supplemented the retail store that sold diving equipment by branching out into manufacturing and distribution. He founded a dive bag business, Sports Leather Products Company, one of the first sports-specific luggage companies in the U.S. He also started Tri States Divers, a distribution business importing dive equipment from Italy and distributing it across the Southeast.
Doug McNeese Jr, who started assisting his father at age 13, worked his way up from a pattern cutter in the bag business to top sales person and instructor in the retail store. In 1975 he bought The Dive Shop from McNeese Sr. and paid off its debt in 1983, shifting the focus back to retail. By 1988 he'd expanded the business to additional locations — one in Little Rock, and another in Atlanta.
In 1993, the junior McNeese moved the store to its current South Yates location, where it still remains the only facility of its kind in the region, featuring all levels of training and equipment for scuba, snorkeling, and swimming. It was recently recognized at the Scuba Schools of America National Dealer Conference in Loveland, Colorado, for 50 years of outstanding service. In addition to its Memphis store, it also boasts locations in Little Rock, Marietta, and Joplin, along with a collegiate SCUBA program at the University of Mississippi.
For more information about The Dive Shop and its upcoming 50th anniversary celebration, call 763-3483 or go to www.diveshop1.com.