Capt. Nemo’s Dive Shop has been a part of the landlocked Columbia community for 36 years.

“People ask us all the time, and they’ve asked us throughout the years, ‘Why in the world is there a dive shop in central Missouri?’” said co-owner Dwain Gardner. “Well, the main reason that we’re here is because there’s a huge interest in diving, I mean tropical, ocean diving, and it’s really strong right here in central Missouri.”

The shop will continue to feed this interest under the ownership of Diventures, a Nebraska-based swim and scuba center. Diventures plans to open a new location in late 2021 with an indoor heated pool, a retail store, a classroom, a scuba service center and a travel center, according to a Diventures news release.

Diventures has six locations across four states, including one in Springfield, Missouri, according to its website.

Co-owner Mary Stanford, who is Gardner’s wife, said she is looking forward to the new pool, since the shop’s current location at 1414B Rangeline St. does not have one.

“One of the big things that the Diventures acquisition lets us do is that when they build their building, it will have a pool in it, so no more lugging gear,” Stanford said. “It’ll just be a tremendous boost to Columbia. And it’ll be another pool. Because right now pools are a little hard to come by in this town.”

Gardner and Stanford primarily use the pool at Hickman High School to teach classes, she said.

The acquisition will also bring more opportunities for escorted group dive travel to the area. In the past, Gardner and Stanford have taken four or five trips a year, which was “not enough for the demand for dive travel in central Missouri,” Gardner said. There are over 40 scuba trips planned for 2021, according to the news release.

The decision to be acquired by Diventures was a long-term plan put into place when Gardner met Diventures owner Dean Hollis at a scuba meeting in Omaha 10 years ago. The similar cultures of the two businesses made it a good fit, Gardner said.

“We always thought that when we were ready to sort of start slowing down, we knew that we would ask Diventures if they would come to Columbia,” Stanford said.

While the COVID-19 pandemic was not the driving factor of this decision, it has negatively impacted Capt. Nemo’s, especially since its business is dependent on people traveling.

Gardner and Stanford will remain involved in the operation of the new location, and they look forward to having more free time for the arrival of their first grandchild.

“From our point of view, this is the best ending we could have come up with because it gives Columbia a good facility. The divers in central Missouri are going to be so lucky to have this here,” Gardner said.

  • Business reporter, fall 2020. Studying business and economics journalism. Reach me at, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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