LEWISTON — It has all the elements of a good soap opera: Intrigue. Murder. Memorable characters.

The fact those characters are tropical fish doesn’t put off anyone.

“There’s a lot of action. You know what? Everybody likes the action,” said Jason Levesque, CEO of Argo Marketing. “Everybody comes in here and they watch the fish.” 

The Lewiston call center is home to a 220-gallon saltwater fish tank that features more than two dozen fish, crabs, shrimp and other creatures, as well as a live coral reef. Levesque had it installed soon after Argo moved into the renovated McCrory’s building in downtown Lewiston this winter.

“When we were building the contact center, I’m like, ‘I want to get the employees pets.'” Levesque said. “Well, I bring Pete (my) dog in, but he’s getting a little old. Fish, I thought, would be kind of cool.”

The tank was custom-built, surrounded by cabinetry and set in the wall between an employee break room and the call center’s employee floor.

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It was an immediate hit.

The creatures became true pets, complete with names like Sonny and Cher, Meep, Crab Rangoon, Lobster Stew, The Godfather and Toni the Tigerfish. 

“They all named them,” Levesque said.  “When we were starting to put a lot of (the fish) in, it’s like, ‘Okay, what are they called?’ Usually everybody would have a name idea. Some of them stuck automatically.”

Employees soon realized the fish tank and its quirky-named inhabitants offered more than just a serene distraction — they provided melodrama.

The clownfish routinely ganged up on Toni. The Godfather hid in the rocks and snatched the biggest pieces of seaweed for himself. Lizzie Borden, a delicate powder-blue tang, killed indiscriminately.

“After she killed one (fish), she was named Lizzie Borden,” Levesque said. “And then she killed the second one, just to make a point of it.”

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The tank has become a conversation piece and a hub for employees.

“It’s not like any other fish tank I think I’ve seen,” said Tom Gurney, whose desk is just feet away. 

The tank is fully automated and Web-enabled, allowing it to operate with little hands-on help. When the tank does need to be cleaned — or the fish just look like they could use a treat — Julien Figueroa is usually the one to do it. 

His official title is account coordinator. He is unofficially the Argo Marketing fish guy. 

“It’s definitely calming for me,” he said. “Having a stressful day, I come down here, feed them, clean it. Make sure everyone gets to enjoy it. It gives me a little break.”

Soon, Figueroa will have more to do. Argo is adding a 75-gallon custom tank to another employee area. It will allow the company to have additional kinds of fish, and separate the ones who aren’t getting along in the big tank.

“Studies have shown that aquariums have calming, soothing effects, and they do,” Levesque said. “And I would have never said this before, but it’s kind of exciting down here.”

Have an idea for Animal Tales? Email Lindsay Tice at [email protected].


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