In between those two, Johnson estimates he and his wife, Remy, have certified about 14,000 others how to don a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus and dive at Loves Park Scuba & Snorkel, 7307 N. Alpine Road.
The business offers one of the largest full-service scuba shops in the Midwest and the building itself is a landmark of sorts recognizable for its lighthouse tower.
However, after 38 years, the Johnson’s recently sold their business and are now looking forward to diving into the next chapter of their lives. Johnson says the business is in good hands.
“His name is Victor Tovar,” Johnson said. “He’s an outstanding individual. They’re hard to come by, and he bought the business. So, I’m going to retire.”
Johnson, 67, said he learned to scuba dive in 1973 and fell in love with exploring coral reefs and sea life as well as the history of scuba diving, particularly inventor James Lockwood who on Dec. 9, 1938, revealed his Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (S.C.U.B.A.) at the Rockford Boys Club.
A decade later, Johnson turned his passion into a business by becoming a scuba instructor and opening Loves Park Scuba and Snorkel.
“I just love teaching people how to scuba dive,” he said. “We take them all over the world on dive trips, some pretty exotic places: the Solomon Islands, Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, Fiji.”
Johnson said he will miss his students but won’t miss the responsibilities of operating the facility.
“We’re dealing with life support equipment and other responsibilities,” he said.
The Johnsons own a dive boat of their own and plan to make good use of it by traveling to Florida and elsewhere around the country, but the couple will still call Loves Park home.
“My wife and I live at the lighthouse tower,” he said. “We sold the business, but we did not sell the real estate.”
Victor Tovar, who was born in California and raised in Cancun, is CEO of Xcalibur Aircraft Solutions, an independent provider of aviation services to customers in the aviation industry. He came to the Rockford area about five years ago. He met the Johnsons shortly after that time when he brought his wife, Natalia, to the shop to teach her how to scuba dive. The two couples became friends traveling on numerous trips together.
Victor Tovar said the hours of operation for the business will remain the same, but he has been adding his own personal touches here and there.
“We’ve upgraded the place and we’ve bought a lot of new equipment,” he said. “We have our own marketing team now. We have a webpage that is still under construction but it’s going to be really nice. And we’re on Facebook and Instagram. So we’ve been getting a lot of new students.”
A party celebrating Johnson’s retirement and the new owners was held on Saturday.