COPLEY, Ohio — Many local, small businesses have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, but for Tidal Gardens, a saltwater coral farm in Copley, business is going swimmingly.

The farm sells close to 1,000 types of saltwater corals from all over the world.

“Really exotic species and the ones that have the best coloration, that sort of thing,” said Tidal Gardens owner Than Thein.

Thein and his staff can tell you all about each and every one of them.

“When I was a little kid, I was not allowed to have cats or dogs as pets, but I was allowed to have fish,” Thein said.

That sparked an interest in saltwater fish and salt-water corals. Then, in college, he got serious about his hobby and wrote a business plan for a coral farm.

“That business plan won a whole bunch of money and local competitions and regional competitions. And that helped fund the very early stages of this company,” Thein said.

Tidal Gardens was founded in 2002. By 2009, it’d grown so successful, Thein was able to quit his full-time corporate job to run the company full time.

“Our client base is pretty much anybody that has a saltwater coral reef aquarium at home,” Thein said.

When the pandemic hit, Thein worried his client base would shrink.

“I could totally envision a world where people would basically be buying food and toilet paper and that’s it,” Thein said.

But instead, it was the total opposite. People stuck at home with their saltwater aquariums during the pandemic started buying more from the very niche coral market.

“Very unexpected, but very thankful as well,” Thein said.

Thein credits their success to their established e-commerce foundation and strong online presence.

“The vast majority of our sales really is done online so our footprint is nationwide,” Thein said. “I think that the companies that really relied on a lot of local business probably struggled quite mightily because of restrictions with travel and just how much retail traffic you’re really going to drive to your place.”

And with boxes now constantly stacking up to be shipped out, Thein and his team are excited for what that success will bring.

“We’re expecting a lot of good things, but just a lot of growth and redoing a whole bunch of different types of aquariums. And we’re also very active on YouTube, especially,” Thein said.

Coming off Tidal Gardens’ impressive year in 2020, Thein says 2021 is looking to be even better. He plans to expand his Copley facility by bringing in 5,000 gallons worth of new tanks along with even more coral.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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