Force-E to open new dive store in Boynton Beach

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For 37-year-old Steven Constantiner, taking the helm of Force-E is the realization of a dream. A native New Yorker, he was a political science major at New York University, a Fordham Law School graduate and former assistant district attorney in New York County with a passion for diving since he was 12.

Force-E Scuba Centers was started in Palm Beach County in 1976 by Skip and Cathy Commagere. Skip said the “E” is for excellence, and he meant it. The Commageres ran three dive stores — one at the foot of the Blue Heron Bridge in Riviera Beach and others in Pompano Beach and Boca Raton.

Boynton Beach had a series of dive shops catering to a growing number of divers that have found secret haunts of amazing ocean dwellers that swim along the Gulf Stream where it meanders close to shore among some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world.

“I’m five generations here in Florida,” said Billy Black, Force-E’s senior vice president of operations, service, gas and facilities. “Diving is phenomenal here. We have five dive boats in the [Boynton] Harbor Marina. They can all be out on reefs and not be in the same place.”

He began puttering around Force-E as a kid, helping his aunt and uncle around the shop.

Black and Nick Casper, vice president of retail operations, have been charged with the new Boynton Beach Force-E store construction.

“Billy can take a compressor apart and put it back together. I wouldn’t have bought this company if I didn’t have this team,” Constantiner said.

Standing at gas fill compressors at the new Force-E Boynton Beach store are Billy Black, left, store manager Mike Arsenault, center, and Force-E President Steven Constantiner.

Standing at gas fill compressors at the new Force-E Boynton Beach store are Billy Black, left, store manager Mike Arsenault, center, and Force-E President Steven Constantiner. (John Christopher Fine/Contributor)

While he will bring his business acumen and customer service ideals to Force-E, Constantiner said he realizes that experienced, friendly and capable people working in a dive store provide customer confidence.

Tom and Deb Muscatello, owners of the Boynton Beach Dive Center, retired from teaching in Lake George, New York, moved to Florida and opened a store right on Federal Highway only two blocks from Boynton Harbor Marina. They also took over a commercial fill station that serviced divers. Now their yen for travel, desire to enjoy a second retirement and their grandchildren found Constantiner’s offer attractive to their operation and move it to a new store at the corner of Boynton Beach Boulevard and Congress Avenue.

“We are seven minutes from the inlet. There are five dive boats there. This is a hidden gem, among the best diving in the world, easily Florida’s best diving,” Constantiner said.

His energy and enthusiasm is apparent as he and his team of dive instructors work together preparing a 7,020-square-foot space that was once a bike shop that remained vacant for five years.

The task is daunting. New flooring had to be put down, new LED lighting, compressors for mixed gas and air fills set up, retail space laid out, a classroom and conference area established, retail displays put in and the large space stocked with merchandise.

Force-E’s Boynton Beach store manager Michael Arsenault has been with the company a dozen years, having worked and managed various locations.

“The fill station will be here, we’ve run 2,000 feet of cables from compressors to the front of the store. By keeping compressors in the rear, we’ll keep noise down,” he said.

The convenience of having divers bring tanks inside the store to obtain fills while they wait is an advantage. Often divers have to leave tanks to get filled and pick them up later, making two trips as some dive stores are not equipped to handle volume.

“We’ve installed banks of storage tanks outside in back,” Arsenault said. “Divers can load in this rear door if they need service or are leaving something off.”

When it is fully operational, Force-E Boynton Beach will have high-capacity compressors and storage banks that will enable quick fills for mixed gas as well as air, an important asset in any dive operation.

For Constantiner, his wife and two sons, 5 and 6, with another boy on the way, the last eight months have been exciting. He has taken up the challenge of opening a new business in an area that has seen dive shops come and go. He and his team are building a new store to add to Force-E’s flagship service in what has become difficult for every brick-and-mortar business in the face of internet buying.

“We do instruction, gas fills, travel, service and retail. There is so much opportunity to do it smarter and in a more efficient way. We have to evolve, move into this century,” he said.

“Many shops were ‘lifestyle’ guys who wanted to dive; they opened small dive shops where divers had to leave their tanks for fills, they didn’t stock parts, equipment had to be put on special order, customers had to wait for it to come in. We have to up the game. What is good for the customer is good for us,” Constantiner said.

He sat on a sofa that is part of a lounge area in which divers can socialize, relax with friends and enjoy a fraternal atmosphere with people that have similar interests.

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After his stint at the New York District Attorney’s office, he joined his father-in-law at a children’s apparel company in New York and learned what is necessary to undertake a business successfully.

“At the end of the day, we realize we sell the same stuff others sell online or in other stores. At Force-E, our people are our biggest assets. There will always be an instructor on the floor. Divers want to buy gear from the person that was in the water with them during training. We are insulated from the dot com industry. Services we provide, divers cannot get on Amazon, service and dive instruction can’t be done online,” he said.

“There is room for a mom-and-pop dive store,” Tom Muscatello said in his shop on Federal Highway.

The building will soon be demolished as part of development in downtown Boynton Beach, another reason the Muscatellos decided to sell out to Force-E and move on with their lives.

“I’ve been diving since I was 12 years old. I got certified on a sailing trip in Tortola, British Virgin Islands. I decided to move down here from New York, to marry my business experience with my passion. Force-E will continue to be a family business,” Constantiner said. “Something for my kids to continue when they are older.”

Visit The Boynton Beach dive shop will open soon at 270 N. Congress Road. Call 561-810-4451.

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