Hap’s owner opens full-service dive shop in Granite Quarry
GRANITE QUARRY — Gary Brown walked into Hap’s Grill last year for a hotdog and left with the scuba diving bug.
While waiting for his first-ever ‘dog from the Salisbury landmark, Brown noticed a diving poster and asked the man at the grill about it.
Owner Greg Culp chatted animatedly about diving while he cooked, said Brown, who lives in Gold Hill. It didn’t take Culp long to convince Brown to take his class, become certified and cross “scuba diving” off his bucket list.
Brown has several certifications through Culp and is preparing to learn rescue diving next.
“I wouldn’t do nothing but with Greg,” said Brown, the safety director for Carolina Stalite. “He is safe and very thorough. He makes sure that everybody’s safe, and he covers everything when he has a class.”
Now, Culp has opened a full-service dive shop in Granite Quarry. No more trips to Charlotte or Lake Norman to fill tanks, buy gear and have annual inspections, Brown said. He and other students now have a shop just around the corner from the quarry where they dive.
“It’s real nice to just go 15 minutes down the road as opposed to one hour, plus Charlotte traffic,” said Phillip McCorkle, whose son Graison, 11, recently took Culp’s beginner class and now dives with his parents.
Culp, who turns 41 today, said he’s living his dream.
“This is my passion,” he said.
The new shop, which opened three weeks ago, sells everything from a basic snorkel to a high-tech dive computer. For about $400, beginners can get everything they need for the initial certification. Culp provides the tank and regulator for beginner classes.
For an additional $1,850, divers can purchase the rest of the gear they need for a complete kit that will last for years, Culp said.
Located at 403 S. Salisbury Ave. in Granite Quarry, Salisbury Scuba is open from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, noon to 6 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Culp has taught classes for five years under the name Salisbury Scuba.
The shop soon will offer a factory-certified technician to work on equipment, and visual tank inspections are available for $5, as well as hydro tests for $35. Culp will fill an aluminum tank with air for $6 and a high-pressure tank for $8.
Certified to teach 28 specialties including in-water CPR, Culp said he invested about $50,000 in renovations and equipment to get the business up and running.
He said he tries to keep prices reasonable. A beginner open-water scuba class costs $350, which includes about 25 hours of instruction in Forestdale Pool in Spencer or the East Rowan YMCA and the quarry, as well as certification, books, tanks and all diving gear except masks, snorkels and fins. Some dive shops charge more than $1,000 for the same class, he said.
Culp is a member of the Piedmont Diving and Rescue Association. He teaches advanced classes, where students dive deeper than 60 feet, at the Lake Norman quarry or ocean.
But the open-water class and most recreational diving takes place right around the corner from Salisbury Scuba. Culp even has a cash register application on his phone, in case someone want to register for a class or buy gear at the quarry.
Wife Stephanie Culp, who works full-time at Food Lion’s corporate office and part-time at the dive shop, is earning her certification so the couple can dive during their honeymoon in the Dominican Republic.
She set up the shop.
“Stephanie’s been the brains behind all this,” Greg Culp said. “I’m a diver. I want to be in the water.”
Culp has certified his two sons and his wife’s two children. He also certified Jeff Burrell, who became Culp’s best friend and volunteers at the shop with wife Stacey Burrell. Eventually, they will be paid employees, Culp said.
Since earning certification through the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, Culp has taught about 300 students. He will offer dive charters through the shop, including an upcoming trip to Myrtle Beach the first Sunday in October. Next year, he hopes to book trips out of the country.
The dive shop features a wall of snorkeling gear targeted at people who are going on cruises. For about $100, a customer can buy a mask, fins, snorkel and mesh bag.
Culp, however, doesn’t want to stay on the surface. In his more than 4,000 dives, he’s become fascinated with investigating old ship wrecks off the coasts of North and South Carolina. He has come to the surface with items such as Civil War-era bullets, plates, cups and trigger guards from old guns and displays some of his “treasures” at the shop.
And yes, Culp has had a few encounters with sharks, which he describes as docile creatures with little interest in fully-submerged humans.
“It’s a very big thrill to see a shark,” Culp said.
McCorkle said Culp displayed significantly more patience while certifying his son than McCorkle’s instructor did years ago. As for 11-year-old Graison, after three dives, he can’t wait to get back in the quarry.
“It’s peaceful underwater,” he said. “It’s like another world.”
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.