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Old 06-19-2007, 01:33 AM   #1
Jason Baliban
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Big Al's of East Norriton PA


Erin and I decided there was no better day to stop by a new store for a review then the first day they were open. Not only the first day, but within the first few hours Immediately after we walked in, we knew we were lucky to have such a store in our area.

Even on the first day, the store was extremely nice and layed out with employees and customers zooming about, feasting their eyes on the overwhelming displays of tanks, equipment, and accessories. This, even before they made their way into the splendidly large and amazing livestock area.

Within minutes of walking around (with a camera), the owner (Bob) made his way over to us and asked us in a friendly/joking manner with a smile, "Writing a book?" We explained that we were from www.dvaga.com (and briefly explained what we were about), and his eyes quickly lit up On the first day within the first few hours, he dropped everything to show us around his amazing store.

He was more then proud of his electrical setup, his fully plumbed RO, salt, and freshwater outlets at every station!!!! We talked further about his history and his life in the area and the hobby. He told me about how he was affiliated with LFS's in the area for decades back (sorry for hinting at your age Bob ). He explained to me some of his frustrations of what we find in LFS's and what he wanted to do to address the issues with his new store.

Here are some pictures of the amazing store.

Nestled in a shopping mall, the store is very large in both width and in depth.


A view of the expansive store.


A counter full of all the electronic goodies that we love.


Even though I'm not one for plastic decor, it still sparked the kid in me seeing this little setup.


Even for being open one day, you can tell that preparations were being made for months prior by this already thriving salty.


Here is the opening to the very large fish room. The Exit sign is funny, don't expect to do this for a long time once you go in there.


This is the very large shark tank. The do live feedings in this thing. I imagine that is very interesting to watch


The planted section was just getting set up. As a matter of fact, Erin and I helped them name many of the plants they got in. Bob made it a point to tell us he would get whatever we needed A very cool setup.


The salt section, as for all of the tanks were very new, but showed care. Once things get rolling, I can imagine a great selection even for the advanced hobbiest. We spoke with the managers and they expressed interest in getting some more interesting species to compliment the more popular species. The certainly have room for it.


Each station (grouping of tanks) had a middle section, shown here. Within this secret room, there are taps for Salt, RO, and fresh water that is plumbed through the whole store. The electric setup is a marvel.


Here is the huge RO unit that feeds the store. Where do I get one of these?


Check out Smile!!


Overall, I have to say we were impressed from the get go. I spoke with Bob at length about things he planned to do and what type of experience he brought that would help him accomplish these things. He is certainly a man with knowledge and charisma. While I was running after his fevered pace of showing off his "toys", he was managing and instructing his new staff. Very funny and promising.

We expect great things from this store. Big Al's is a great name, but it still needs a captain, and Bob seems to be a man on a mission. He showed open support for our club and our hobby. We truly appreciate that, and will do our part to help him provide information on our niche in the hobby.

I hope you have a chance to visit Bob at Big Al's.

Big Al's Philadelphia
2876 DeKalb Pike
East Norriton, PA

610.239.1645
http://www.bigalsusa.com/phillyhome.html

jB
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Old 06-19-2007, 02:00 AM   #2
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Awesome photo essay, thank you so much for sharing it.
were the tank prices any good? were other prices like the
web sight, or did they have the usual LPS 100% markup.

You didn't photo graph any freshwater livestock.
they didn't come in yet?
I don't like how so much stuff is behind the counters.

If they ever have a large tank sale, it might be
worth the 3 hour drive to check this place out.
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Old 06-19-2007, 02:16 AM   #3
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The prices seemed to be a little inconsistant, but i really attribute that to the fact it was the first day. I havent been back yet, so im sure they got thinks ironed out a bit. I personally did not look at the prices, but I am assuming they will match their online prices? That is guess though.

The livestock was sparse on both ends (salt and fresh). You could tell they were still doing a lot of work with that side of the business. I can tell you there was a huge amount of space.

Most things were not behind the counter. Only the more tricky instruments. I imagine this is for service more then anything else. If you want filter media, pumps, and everyday stuff, its all there for the picking.

I will have to do a follow up in a few months to see how the settle in. It was after all, the first day

jB
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Old 06-19-2007, 02:25 AM   #4
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GWAPA field trip!!!!

Nice write up/photos Jason, thanks for sharing!
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Old 06-19-2007, 04:06 AM   #5
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If ever you find a Big Als store that has higher prices on their shelf than is on the website they have to match the price. All the stores do that. I believe Al has that written into their franchise contracts. We have 2 of them here in Toronto and their prices can't be beat on equipment.

It is so typical of a Big Al's store. I look at your pics and I see all the standards that were set up here in Toronto long before it bacame the franchise it is today. Everything is the same... lol. Have fun and congrats that you have sucha conscientious manager at that location.
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Old 06-19-2007, 06:02 PM   #6
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I hope that Al's will stock a lot of aquarium driftwood and natural rock.
the biggest problem here in NYC is few pet stores stock these well,
and the ones that do have either crap, or they overcharge like crazy.

Now I know why so many buy driftwood on ebaY even with the high
shipping costs. For example, I just bought two square foot pieces
blind from SeaCorals.com; one was branchy and useful, while the
other was a useless dense knot. the point being that for the money
I spent with SeaCoral only yielding one good piece, I could have
bought the piece of my choice on ebaY even with shipping costs.
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Old 06-20-2007, 05:24 AM   #7
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Thanks for the write up on them. I'm always looking for new stores in the area. Gonna have to make a trip to check them out!
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Old 06-28-2007, 12:37 PM   #8
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I think we as a club are going to set up a display tank there If that happens, you will have to come down and join the party

jB
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Old 06-28-2007, 12:41 PM   #9
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Woo, lol Display tank thats gonna be cool, if there is we want pictures
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Old 07-09-2007, 05:08 AM   #10
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I took a trip over to Big Al's on saturday and was extremely impressed. I'm glad that we've got a store of this calibre in our area. Got to speak to Bob for a little bit and had mentioned that I saw this write up. He stated that you guys from DVAGA will be setting up a planted tank for them. That's awesome! Can't wait to see it when it's done. Anyone who hasn't visited them must definitley make the trip to see what they are all about.

Came home with 2 mudskippers
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Old 08-14-2007, 12:22 PM   #11
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I stopped in this store a about a month ago, and they told me they will match their online price, but with whatever the shipping charges would be. Nice store for sure, and the owner as I understand it was affiliated with a lovely store that was in the Jenkintown area for many years.

Tamara
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Old 08-25-2007, 09:58 PM   #12
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We did do a tank here

It was very challenging but fun

We had to use all of their supplies, and as you all know, hardscape material in LFS's is terrible at best HAHAHA

Here is a link....

Go easy on us, like i said the available materials were very difficult to work with.

http://dvaga.com/forum/showthread.php?t=98

jB
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Old 09-28-2007, 03:38 AM   #13
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just there for the 3ed time this past Monday. Frist I have to say WOW to the planted tank that you did, looks grate now that it has filled in.
As for the store looks great only saw 2 dead fish (remeber this is a lfs with over 100 tanks) nice plants, but still no where near That Fish Place for chose. prices are better then most lfs. They do have alot of things that you would have to mail order other wise at a fair price. 1 to 10 I would give a 8
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Old 12-16-2007, 02:02 PM   #14
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Big Al's in East Norriton is now Captain Nemo's. They left the franchise.
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Old 12-16-2007, 02:40 PM   #15
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I wish they would open one here. We have very little too choose from. The main LFS is so incredibly over over priced that the only thing I buy there is feeders for my Gar. For instance, they are asking over $200 for a 2217 and close to $400 for a 2260.
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