Nick Laiben -- along with business and dive partners Earnie Wilson and Mitch Penn of Poplar Bluff, Missouri -- plans to open Cape Dive & Travel next month in Cape Girardeau according to Tom Kelsey, commercial broker with Lorimont Commercial Real Estate of Cape Girardeau who handled the lease transaction. The new business location will be at 623 South Silver Springs Road, Suite 310, in the Shawnee Center.

Nine years ago, Nick Laiben went on a family vacation to Cancun, Mexico, and while he was there he took advantage of a "discover scuba resort course" at his hotel. The course gave him a chance to "sample" the undersea world of scuba diving. He was hooked. The Cape Girardeau insurance broker eventually earned his PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) open-water and dive-master certifications and now he, along with two other scuba diving enthusiasts, plan to open a scuba diving store and training center in Cape Girardeau later this spring.

“It’s going to be a PADI Five Star dive shop,” he said and explained the “five star” designation means it will offer a range of products, services and diver training. “It also means we have to have a scuba-quality compressor before we open. Ours is being custom built to our specifications, and we’re waiting on that right now.” The compressor will make it possible for Cape Dive & Travel to refill diver air tanks, a service Laiben said is not available in the immediate area.

Laiben said Cape Dive & Travel will be a “sister” facility to Ozark Dive Shop in Poplar Bluff, which is owned by Penn and Wilson. While he is not certain how many scuba divers live in the Cape Girardeau area, he is confident a scuba operation here can be successful. “We have received numerous messages from people through our Facebook page who are divers that we weren’t even aware of,” he said. According to Laiben, Cape Dive & Travel will focus on “recreational” divers and people who want to scuba dive while on vacation.   The shop in Poplar Bluff caters to technical divers and those with advanced diving certifications,” he said. “This one will definitely be more recreationally oriented.”

Cape Dive &Travel will be a Scubapro Platinum dealer “and we will also carry a few other lines that cater to technical diving” Laiben said, adding the business will also offer a service and maintenance area for scuba equipment as well as a multimedia instructional area for scuba certification training.