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Victoria Hecht, (757) 446·2614, firstname.lastname@example.org
Owner, Koizilla Monster Ponds – aquaculture, water features and custom pond design
It’s hard to miss the truck: big, blue and with a robotic-age fish splashed across the side, a monster of the road. Stuart Chesson likes it that way. And it’s not just the Ford F350 that has him riding high. Chesson, the owner of Koizilla Monster Ponds, said he’s happier now bringing backyard relaxation to clients than he was in the corporate world.
The Virginia Beach resident and former advertising agency owner launched Koizilla seven years ago, fulfilling his lifelong love of aquaculture and a desire to share its soothing benefits with others.
Business or not, it’s still just a plain good time for him too. “Everybody in the koi pond business is so serious, but I like to have fun,” he said. “I think it’s time somebody breaks that mold.” That explains the logo; a spiky-finned, techno-teasing hybrid fish of the future that looks like it could battle Godzilla – or any other Japanese movie monster – and stand a good chance of winning. Chesson’s big on those creature flicks and saw an opportunity to incorporate their daring in his venture. “I wanted to do something cutting edge, with the latest in technology and information. I needed an image that was consistent with that,” he explained.
But koi – the calm-inducing creatures of Chesson’s profession – remain the driving force behind his custom pond-design business. “The thing that makes Stuart different and which really separates him apart is his passion for the fish,” said wife Carolyn, who also works in the business. “Not just creating a beautiful pond, but engineering a living environment for the fish where they can thrive and possibly outlive us.”
Chesson – whose own property is home to an 8,000 gallon koi pond, a smaller goldfish pond and a frog pond -earned his koi health management certification from the University of Georgia School of Veterinary Medicine and has studied with enthusiasts on the West Coast. There, Carolyn said, koi keeping is a “flourishing hobby.” Chesson has kept koi personally for 17 years and also owns King Koi Farms.
The fish, he said, have personalities – some playful, some mellow, some more domineering. They’ll play with a pond’s plants and small toys and enjoy treats like other pets. Chesson, whose company also provides maintenance contracts, frequently dons snorkeling gear to clean and care for clients’ koi ponds and water gardens. “Hands on?” Carolyn said, laughing. ‘”He’s completely immersed!”
What attracted you to custom pond design? I’ve been an avid aquarist since the age of 9, I’ve kept fish from all over the world. Also, our community was not getting accurate information on the distinctions between a koi pond and water garden/water feature. These magnificent animals are not disposable – to be replaced from one year to the next. The oldest koi of record was determined to be more than 200 years old in Japan, proving that- given the right diet and water quality – these fish can outlive their owners. Koi are ”very social and community- oriented and respond affectionately to their owners and care providers”. Because of their beautiful color combinations and patterns, they are described as living jewels.
What are the hot trends in your industry? Complete outdoor living spaces with gardens and ponds, creating a home oasis.
How simple or elaborate can folks go in their design? The design is dependent on the vision of the customer, whether they want an interesting water feature, a small ornamental pond or an elaborate koi environment.
What should one consider when planning a pond? The type of pond they want, the appearance (such as natural or formal. tropical or oriental), the time they will have available for maintenance, the right design and equipment to minimize maintenance chores. If there will be fish in the pond, remember that we’re creating and providing the environment where the fish will live. We are responsible for their care. The environment should be designed and engineered for koi’s health and well-being.
What is the best part about creating a custom pond? Helping to bring clients’ dreams to reality. And aquaculture filtration engineering systems, which will function well for them.
Have a favorite pond project? The 25,000 gallon koi pond with show-quality koi and a smaller ‘”sister'” goldfish/frog pond that we did in Virginia Beach. Absolutely magnificent!
What’s your favorite thing about your own home? Watching the fish and frogs every day. It’s an ongoing creation of a relaxing, tranquil “paradise” at home. I love to spend time relaxing outside and drinking it all in.
By Sandra J. Pennecke, Correspondent Virginia Beach
FOR DALE AND ROY KOI, IT’S HAPPY TAILS FOR TWO
Mindy Henderson was unsure what to do when Dale and Roy outgrew her backyard pond.”1 felt so bad for them,” Henderson said about the koi fish she bought as babies several years ago. The fish started out 2-inches long and grew to approximately14 inches.
Henderson’s prayers were answered when she learned that Stuart Chesson, owner of Koizilla Monster Ponds, was starting an educational and adoption program called Adopt-a-Koi to find koi new homes.”1 knew 1 had to get rid of them for their sake,” said Henderson, who lives in Chesapeake. “They could barely turn around in my pond anymore and looked trapped.”
Each fish costs between $100 to $300 to adopt depending on its size and type. Chesson is donating half of each sale to the Virginia Beach Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
“They’re not algae; they’re living things,” said Sharon Adams, executive director for the Virginia Beach SPCA.” Unfortunately, it happens with all sorts of animals and they’re put at risk. “We share the same role as environmentalists and wildlife protectors,” she said. “It’s a wonderful idea that needs to be celebrated.”
Henderson was the first participant in the program and made a $100 donation to support it. Chesson transported Dale and Roy to his three-acre location at 232 Centerville Turnpike North in Chesapeake. That’s where he keeps 6,000-gallon tanks with filtration, ultraviolet and sterilization systems, built on an animal shelter model especially for the Adopt-a-Koi program.One tank is designated for rescued koi to undergo a quarantine period and the other houses adoptable koi.
“People who have no alternatives for their pets leave them to suffer their own fate or release them into a river,” said Chesson. Adopt-a-Koi gives them a choice. A pipeline of fish owners have donated their fish to the Adopt-a-Koi program, which has approximately 70 to date. “One gentleman is moving and donated 50 and the other has 20 koi that have outgrown his pond,” Chesson said.
Henderson is celebrating despite missing the two large fish. “I go out there every day and look for them,” said Henderson, who found two dozen koi babies in her pond after Dale and Roy left. “But I know Stuart will find them a new pond to call home.”
Sandra J. Pennecke, email@example.com
Find out more
Koizilla Monster Ponds, 232 Centerville Turnpike North, Chesapeake
Depending on the size and type of fish, the adoption fee is $100 to $300. It’s free to give up a fish. Koizilla will come to your home for pick up, to make sure the koi are captured safely and transported in oxygen-rich plastic bags and boxes.
Mindy Henderson donated two of her koi, Dale and Roy, to the Adopt-a-Koi program through Koizilla Monster Ponds. Dale and Roy outgrew Henderson’s backyard pond. She was the first participant in the new program, aimed at education and adoption, which donates half of each adoption fee to the Virginia Beach SPCA.
Sandra J. Pennecke, Correspondent, firstname.lastname@example.org
Want a pond? This man knows what’s koi
Stuart Chesson was running a successful ad agency when his stepdaughter gave him a Father’s Day gift that changed his life. “It was about 11 years ago when she gave me six koi,” said Chesson, who saw his blood pressure drop and his demeanor change.
He interviewed several pond builders and found that most couldn’t differentiate a koi pond from a water garden. “I designed my own pond and put it in with the help of a landscaper,” said Chesson, who now has an 8,000 gallon pond with 50 koi in his Virginia Beach backyard. His koi, a Japanese variety of carp that resemble goldfish, range from 3 to 50 years old.
“The ad agency was a rewarding and gratifying career, but there was a lot of stress,” Chesson said. “I could walk into my backyard and escape. It’s like walking into another time zone.” Chesson’s wife, Carolyn, now runs The Chesson Agency he started in 1991.
An avid aquarist and tropical fish hobbyist since he was a child, Chesson, 55, has raised fish from all over the world. He started Koizilla Monster Ponds, named for his love of science fiction films like “Godzilla” and “King Kong” four years ago in his home and recently opened a three-acre location in the former Signature Garden Center on Centerville Turnpike, just north of the Intra-coastal Waterway bridge.
A member of the Mid-Atlantic Koi Club and Koi Health Advisory Council, Chesson earned his certification from the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine Koi Health Management Course. He has a 20-foot microbiology mobile lab and is qualified to diagnose and treat the fish.
At Koizilla, customers can visualize koi ponds water gardens and water features for their own property, buy koi ($200 to $500) and goldfish ($25 to $50), plants, bonsais, koi food and more. Chesson also offers pond service and maintenance. “For people who want one but don’t know how to take care of them, I will,” he said.
“I sell quality of life and a lifestyle,” said Chesson, noting he plans future seminars for fellow koi keepers and goldfish lovers.
Tony and Renee Kantirakis called on Chesson’s expertise to engineer a koi pond in the backyard of their Woodbridge Pointe home last summer and nurse their sick koi back to health. “We had koi in a pond we built ourselves without a proper filtration system, and they were becoming sick. Now we have crystal clear water compared to the green water before,” said Renee Kantirakis. “I’d actually let my kids swim with the fish now.”