09/13/2002- New Haven Register
By: Maria Garriga, Register Staff - Aqua Arts, a handcrafted indoor fountain business, took a hit barely a year after it opened 1997. That's about the time when inexpensive, massproduced fountains became popular.
So owners Casey and Carol Pilis took their business to the Internet in December 2000. Today nearly 70% of its business comes from its Web site, www.AquaArts.com.
"We've gone from being a storebased business to being a Webbased business," said Casey Pilis.
That's not the only change.
The business left its location in New Haven's Westville neighborhood and moved to 225 E. Main St. in Clinton, near the Stop & Shop. The move occurred in December 2001. The visibility has done them good, but the shop did lose some of its old customers. Many visited Aqua Arts because the store also carries an array of unusual gifts the Pilis' find in trips across the country. "I was most worried that we would lose the diversity, but we have customers from around the world," said Carol Pilis. And the customers do come from around the world, many of them via the World Wide Web. Internet visitors can see some of the unusual stone fountains on display, including some with balls of granite and quartz spinning lazily in a fountain, buoyed only by a thin sheet of water.
They can also see fountains as the stems of glasstopped tables and soaring wall fountains, where sheets of water run down panes of glass or slate. Inside the retail store, you can find fairy fountains fashioned out of twisted copper, garden fountains and sculpted stone fountains. One hightech fountain responds to human voices. The spray can be programmed to come out whenever someone speaks.
Carol Pilis loves the idea of highpowered executives placing the model in their office to surprise unsuspecting visitors. "When people ask you questions, it talks back to them," she said. She and her husband, a former project engineer, have helped designed some of their fountains. They say the popularity of custommade, artistic fountains is returning. "We work with the artists? we know their quality," said Carol Pilis.
While Aqua Arts focuses on indoor fountains, its sister company - Atlantic Fountains - offers the large, outdoor models. Casey Pilis now focuses much of his creative energy on Atlantic Fountains, leaving Aqua Arts in his wife's capable hands. "He just likes playing with water," she laughed. The fountains at Aqua Arts may be works of arts - ranging from less than $100 to more than $2,000 - but they also serve a number of purposes, from adding a sense of relaxation to acting as natural humidifiers.
And unlike humidifiers, the fountains don't contribute to mold or mildew problems, Casey Pilis said.
Maria Garriga can be reached via email or at 789-5685. Contact her with ideas about very unusual businesses.
©New Haven Register 2002