Expanding business now located at Crossroads Mall

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Ben Bethke, son of Tom Bethke, gets to work inside The Fish Room at Crossroads Mall recently.

The Fish Room has found a new home inside Crossroads Mall, 217 S 25th St.

The two-year-old pet business moved from Central Avenue to the mall on Jan. 8. It occupies the space formerly held by Glik’s, a retail clothing chain.

“We have been working like crazy,” Owner Tom Bethke said recently. “We wanted to expand. We just started to get cramped. Business has been good. We just outgrew the space.”

Bethke operates The Fish Room with the assistance of his son, Ben Bethke.

Tom Bethke said the mall gives the business a new audience.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Tom Bethke, owner of The Fish Room, poses inside Crossroads Mall recently. Bethke moved The Fish Room to a space in the mall. Its first day in the new location was Jan. 8.

“Despite what people say, the walk-by traffic is the best here in town,” Tom Bethke said. “The mall walkers alone gossip and a good share of them have been in here.”

Ben Bethke was inspired by his late uncle Doug Bethke, and he said that’s a prime reason the business got its start.

“He (Doug) was raising koi,” Ben Bethke recalled. “That’s how this whole thing started. I was a little kid and my uncle had a huge pond in his yard. We were from Minnesota. After he died, I started raising them in my basement. He gave me all kinds of books about fish. We started with koi.”

In April of 2016, the Bethke’s worked with the now-closed Pet Central — Everything Pet Boutique to sell koi on consignment.

Eventually, The Fish Room separated and moved into 1232 Central Ave. before recently relocating to the mall.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Fish swim freely in one of the many tanks, which collectively, take up about 40 feet of space on the east wall inside the new location of The Fish Room at The Crossroads Mall.

Ben Bethke said he never anticipated the business would be as strong as it is.

“It’s too bad he’s not here,” Ben Bethke said of his uncle. “He would really love this.”

Tom Bethke is pleased to see the growth.

“We are excited to expand the product line,” Tom Bethke said. “We are starting to carry products for all pets. Hamsters, gerbils, birds, We have the lizards covered. We let the customers dictate what we bring in.”

He’s also looking forward to adding more tanks.

-Messenger file photo by Hans Madsen
Framed by a selection of colorful toy fish, The Fish Room owner Tom Bethke looks over a colorful Beta fish in November of 2016 when they opened their store. They’ve recently relocated to the Crossroads Mall.

“We have more tanks coming too,” Tom Bethke said. “We have a 200-gallon tank coming. There will be more than 40-feet of tanks on that wall.”

The business primarily sells tropical fish.

Tom Bethke said goldfish are among the top sellers. He orders at least a thousand of those at a time.

“We sell hundreds of feeder fish,” Tom Bethke said.“Preboxed crickets are also popular.”

In addition to the fish, the store carries aquariums, heaters, food, decorations – just about anything a fish enthusiast might want.

The Bethkes are trying to increase inventory for their peak time of year for sales, which was identified as the months of January and February.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ben Bethke said his favorite part of the job is the fish.

“All the different kinds,” Ben Bethke said. “There are just so many.”

He really likes the oscars.

“They have a lot of personality,” he said.

Ben Bethke said he’s learned a lot in two years.

“I didn’t even know fish could get sick until we started this,” he said. “There’s a lot of diseases that are easily treatable with medications. We know what to look for.”

Ben Bethke said he’s focused on continuing to build and meet the needs of customers.

“We might start growing fish in the back because people really like the adult fish,” he said. “Anything we get we put back into the business.”