By GRACE WYLER
AS SOON AS THE winter frost begins to melt and summer days return, scuba divers from as far as Columbus and Mansfield flock to Fox Quarry here, to practice their sport and enjoy some friendly company at a shop that has become a staple of the local diving community. B&B Diving, a small scuba shop tucked away on 54 acres along Churchill Road between Hillsville and Bessemer, Pa., is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The store, founded by brothers Bill and Bob Tyger , began as a marine shop on Glenwood Avenue in Youngstown. The brothers started selling scuba equipment in 1960, and by the end of the year, 75 percent of sales were diving-related. The shop moved to the current Fox Quarry site in 1962. B&B Diving has been run by Bob Tyger’s son, Bob Tyger Jr., since Bob and Bill Tyger died in 2004.
The shop is now a full service scuba diving facility with two on-site diving quarries and an equipment line that includes the latest gear from industry leaders Scubapro and Atomic Aquatics. Tyger said the shop’s continued success is largely due to its on-site diving. Visitors can pay $5 to take a dive in the quarries and try out new equipment from the shop, he said. The main quarry contains underwater diving platforms, an underwater tunnel and sunken ships that divers can explore, Tyger said. “Our advantage over 90 percent of dive shops is that the water is right here, so people can try it,” Tyger said. “It is beautiful, taking people someplace really unbelievable so they can find out how much fun it is and how easy it is.” The shop, an authorized Scuba Schools International training facility, offers scuba-diving certification classes on weekends. The classes are taught by instructor Shawn Campbell, who has been with B&B Diving for 15 years. “The nice thing about diving is that anybody can become a diver if they have the interest,” Campbell said. “Almost everyone who goes down there and tries it is surprised by how easy it is.” The shop also fosters the social aspect of the sport, Campbell said. It hosts an annual Christmas party, and allows divers to hang out and enjoy a cup of coffee or a snack in the shop’s back room, he said. “Like any sport, a great part of diving is the friends you make,” Campbell said. “It is the kind of environment where everyone helps everyone — it’s not for the solo adventurer.” Unlike dive shops in larger cities, customers can stop by B&B Diving to check out new equipment, hang out with fellow divers and even camp out for the weekend on the shop’s property, Tyger said. “There is a real family type atmosphere,” he said. “Divers will come out just to see what was going on, see what’s new.” On a recent Friday evening, several B&B customers and friends had gathered at the shop to take a dip or two before nightfall. The group included veteran divers and relative newcomers from different parts of the Mahoning Valley and Western Pennsylvania. A couple from Butler, Pa., who met at the quarry in 1978, had brought their camper and planned on spending the weekend. At home, the group’s members include a Lawrence County judge, an eye doctor and an engineer. But here, everyone is, first and foremost, a diver. “When you go diving, whatever pressures you have carried with you from the day disappear,” said Scott Welch, an Allstate Insurance agent from Canfield. “You leave them above the surface when you go below.”