Cardiologist revives North Carolina diving shop

His store sells scuba equipment, organizes dive trips and offers classes in "one of the most relaxing activities you can do."

By — Posted Feb. 20, 2012

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Making sidelines pay

Business Pitch

Doctors who branched out beyond running their practice tell why they did it, how they did it, and what you should know before you do it.
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Name: Peter Wagner, DO

Specialty: Cardiology

Location: Greenville, N.C.

Company: Rum Runner Dive Shop sells scuba gear and runs diving vacations and classes (link).

Annual revenue: $250,000

Why he started the business: About six years ago, the owners of the Rum Runner Dive Shop in Winterville, N.C., near Dr. Wagner's hometown of Greenville, needed to either sell or close because of various family issues.

A buyer didn't materialize, and Dr. Wagner, clinical associate professor at East Carolina University in Greenville and a longtime diving enthusiast, was concerned that the store might shut down.

"I was hoping someone else would buy it," he said. "We didn't want it to close. Diving is wonderful. I find diving to be one of the most relaxing activities you can do."

So he bought it.

The shop sells diving equipment, hosts diving-certification classes and organizes diving-related travel.

"I love going to the shop and talking to the customers, taking customers on trips and talking about diving," Dr. Wagner said. "Some of my patients live vicariously through my experiences, and I show them pictures and videos of my trips. This promotes fitness, and, as a cardiologist, I do encourage my patients to be fit."

His wife, Carolyn Wagner, RN, and their four children, who are in their teens and 20s, are certified divers and work in the shop.

"That keeps [my children] out of trouble, and it's better for me to employ my children than to just give them money," Dr. Wagner said.

The economic downturn means various goals that were part of the shop's five-year plan were not met, but the business remains viable. Dr. Wagner is planning diving trips this year to Turks and Caicos, Curacao and the Great Lakes. The shop is starting to work with various programs to bring scuba diving to wounded military personnel and people with disabilities.

Why he still practices: "The dive shop is more of an outlet for my hobby. It is a great stress reliever. Of course, it is also our business, but it is a fun business."

Words of wisdom: "How do you end up with a million dollars from scuba diving? You start off with $2 million. That's very true. You have got to love this sport to really make a go of it."

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