Brian Bondy bought Huron Scuba from Dave and Rachael Kaspar last July first. The first week of August, the United States government essentially told him, Not so fast, mister.
Bondy and his wife, Marketa, discovered scuba diving on a trip to Tahiti. “I didn’t plan to dive; it just happened,” he recalls. “The first time I went underwater, I knew this was for me. It changed my life.” He was working in sales for a Canadian automotive company when he heard about Huron Scuba while calling on Johnson Controls in Plymouth. During one lunch hour, he drove over to check it out and was smitten. “I started to come out here for my stuff.”
Meanwhile, the Kaspars were busy developing their eCommerce store, iSnorkel, and as that got busier, they decided to sell the retail store. Soon, they were in talks with Bondy about buying the business. “I love sales, [so] being able to sell scuba equipment, it was a no brainer,” Bondy recalls.
There was just one problem: Bondy is a Canadian citizen who lives in Windsor. Before he could legally own and operate a business in the U.S., he needed a special “E2 Investor Visa.” He’d applied for the visa before buying Huron Scuba, and was told to come back in the first week of August last year for an interview.
He and his attorney were under the impression that he’d already been granted the visa and that the interview was a formality. “The assumption was that the interview meant we had a green light, so we went and triggered the deal [to buy Huron Scuba],” says Bondy. When he went in for the interview a month later he was shocked to learn the permit had been denied.
Then came the kicker. While he was free to apply again, “They told me, until you get your visa sorted out, we don’t know if you’re coming over to buy gas or coming over to run your business. So until you get your visa fixed, you can’t come to the United States, period.” When he pointed out that he’d been coming to Michigan regularly on business for years, they said that was different. Until he got his visa, how could they know he wouldn’t come over under another pretext and secretly scoot out to Ann Arbor and run Huron Scuba on the sly? Even Marketa got hassled at the border: every time she crossed into Michigan to shop, customs grilled her to make sure she wasn’t coming over to run the business on her husband’s behalf.
Bondy hired new attorneys and reapplied for the visa. Friends of friends got congressman John Dingell to write a letter urging the matter be expedited. Even so, it took another four months to get the mess sorted out. Finally, this past December, he got a call asking him to come in for another interview, and this time he got his visa–no questions asked. On Monday of Christmas week he strolled into the store, street legal. Says Bondy, “It’s been smooth sailing since then.”
Huron Scuba, 4816 Jackson Rd., suite D, 994-3483. Mon. – Fri. 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sun. closed (“Gone diving,” Bondy says). huronscuba.com