Greg Wittstock is the owner of Aquascape and the captain of the Pond Stars team. We asked him a few questions to get to know him better and found out that there was never a doubt that Greg would spend his life building and enjoying ponds.
Admit it. You were one of those little boys catching frogs just to throw at girls, weren’t you?
Yes! I was one hundred percent that boy. I loved snakes, turtles, and fish. I had a sister who I terrorized. I grew up on a lakefront home in Southern Jersey. Then my parents moved us to the cornfields of Wheaten, Illinois. My parents made me a deal and allowed me to bring 11 of my favorite pet turtles and build a pond for them.
Ah, your first pond! How did that work out for you?
My first pond leaked, turned green, and my prized turtles migrated away. For seven years I spent every summer ripping that pond out, and starting over. I just kept “MacGyvering” it up and “jimmy rigging” it to get the water clean. My classroom was my back yard through junior high and high school.
So, eventually you built the pond you were hoping for?
Yes. By the time I was in college I had gotten it right and everyone wanted one. I started building ponds for other people in Chicago. When I was 24, I got a patent for that filter system I had made out of garbage cans and cattle troughs, and started selling them across the United States. Our company, Aquascape, grew from that into one of the 500 fastest growing in country with 195 employees.
What is your favorite part of planning/building water features?
By far and away the way it changes people’s lifestyle. To people who haven’t experienced it, it sounds a little cheesy, but a water feature draws people outside. One hundred percent of the time when we build a pond, we have a friend for life. Fifty percent of the time when the water flows, the tears flow. If our client says that it looks like it’s always been here, that it looks like God made it, then we’ve done our job.
What does your backyard look like? You have a pond, right?
I have the Aqualand Pond at Aquascape. It’s 600,000 gallons, 600 million pond of stone, over 10 feet deep and filled with thousands of fish, frogs and turtles. My kids were just swimming there yesterday. It’s a million dollar water feature that was built with over 300 contractors from around the world for the “world’s most extreme pond build” in 2008.
I also have a one-acre pond at home. The water comes right up to the foundation of my house. In fact, I bought the lot, built the pond, and then built the house.
Okay, dish. What kind of boss are you?
I’m a type A, high-strung personality. I need a pond just as much as the next guy. I am very much a driven, “everything needs to have been done yesterday” type of dude.
My costars are the opposite though. Ed is the scientist and he is unflappable. Nothing bothers him. Brian is the cut up. He’s the jokester. We’ve been working together for 20 years and are like brothers. Have you ever watched Gilligan’s Island? Well, I am the Skipper, Ed is the Professor, and Brian is Gilligan.
What is the one tool you never leave home without?
My iPhone, but mostly because it’s my camera. I love capturing moments. Every single day I take one photo. It isn’t always easy to find a beautiful shot, but I make an effort to do it. Of course, I get email etc, but it’s my camera.
If you were an aquatic species, which would you be and why?
Definitely a turtle, it’s my favorite animal. Turtles got me into the business. I have a turtle cam at Aquascape that I can watch at home. A turtle doesn’t get anywhere until he sticks his neck out, and that is my life philosophy.
You can check out Greg and the Pond Stars team tonight at 10P on Nat Geo WILD!
Pond Stars: School of Rock premieres tonight at 10P on Nat Geo WILD.