Diving has become way of life for owners of Scott’s Scuba in Freeport
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Scuba diving quickly became a way of life for Josh and Jennifer Dillaman.
In less than 10 years, the couple went from learning to scuba dive to owning Scott’s Scuba Service in Freeport.
“It quickly overtook our lives,” said Josh Dillaman, 28.
The store sells scuba diving equipment and gear, arranges group trips to worldwide scuba diving destinations and teaches people how to scuba dive.
Jennifer Dillaman, 27, convinced her husband to take scuba diving lessons at the shop seven years ago when it was owned by Scott Camerlo. She had wanted to learn how to dive since she was a little girl. He didn’t share the enthusiasm.
“I drug him kicking and screaming to it. He didn’t want to come to his first lesson,” Jennifer Dillaman said. “Then, once he started, he was hooked.”
One day a week of diving turned into two. Two turned into three. They continued to take lessons and eventually became instructors.
As the couple immersed themselves in the sport, they imagined what it would be like to own a scuba diving shop or move somewhere where they could do it for a living. That dream become a reality in January, when they bought the shop from Camerlo. They live in the apartment above it.
“It spiraled very fast with us,” Jennifer Dillaman said.
She said it’s fun to work with her husband and their partnership has encouraged other couples and families to get into scuba diving. The shop teaches 200 to 300 people a year how to scuba dive under the Professional Association of Diving Instructors organization.
“We get to travel together. We get to work together. We’re luckier than most,” Jennifer Dillaman said.
Despite rising through the ranks together, the couple’s interests lie in different areas of scuba diving. They think that provides a good diversity for their customers. Jennifer Dillaman likes underwater photography and wildlife, while her husband enjoys exploring shipwrecks.
“We both love diving, but being able to branch out into different aspects of diving is beneficial for us because I think people get a better quality of classes,” Josh Dillaman said. “It’s beneficial for our students, as well to find somebody that really is passionate about photography or passionate about tech diving or wreck diving.”
The couple often is asked why the shop is in Freeport. They said the location doesn’t matter because it’s relatively close to bigger cities like Pittsburgh and Butler and has built up a good reputation through its students and customers, who do the majority of advertising for the Dillamans.
In addition to Western Pennsylvania, students and customers come from West Virginia and Ohio.
“It’s kind of like the only game in town. If people want to dive, if they want to travel, if they want to train, then they’re going to come here,” Josh Dillaman said. “It would be great if we had a customer base that’s all within five minutes, but unfortunately we live in Western Pennsylvania. It’s not the diving Mecca of the world.”
The shop does the majority of its training locally. Camerlo owns a quarry in Grove City called Crusty’s, which has several underwater attractions around which people can learn to scuba dive. There are boats, a school bus, cars, platforms, an airplane and a pirate cove complete with a cannon and treasure chest. Most of the attractions were sunk specifically for diving.
“We always encourage our students to see all the attractions. It’s fun,” Jennifer Dillaman said.
She said one of the best things about scuba diving is that anyone can do it. The shop has trained students ranging in age from 10 to 85. It has worked with Boy Scout troops, the Wounded Warriors and people with disabilities.
“I’ve worked with people who were paraplegics and were quadriplegic. We worked with a blind gentleman,” Jennifer Dillaman said. “It’s truly a family activity. The mom and dad can enjoy it just as much as the 10-year-old.”
Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Madasyn at 724-226-4702, [email protected] or via Twitter .