For the stars of the Animal Planet series Tanked, business and pleasure find common ground
By Kiko Miyasato
Photography by Christopher DeVargas
Grooming by Zee Clemente
Wayde King and Brett Raymer—CEO and COO, respectively, of Acrylic Tank Manufacturing (ATM)—are on their cell phones just before they board a plane back home to Las Vegas. They’ve been in Tampa, Fla., installing an aquarium for the company Tropical Smoothie Café. But they won’t be spending too much time at their Las Vegas headquarters before they take off again for Detroit, where they’ve been commissioned by pizza giant Little Caesars to install an aquarium at a children’s hospital. Yes, life for King and Raymer, not only business partners but also brothers-in-law, too, is nonstop, especially now that they’re stars of one of Animal Planet’s highest-rated reality shows, Tanked.
However, ATM’s success came long before the show first aired in August of last year. On July 31, the company celebrated 15 years in business. “I think we’re so well established today,” Long Island, N.Y., native King said. “People know us as being the best at custom-shape aquariums. There are some bigger companies out there, but I think we do more custom shaping than anyone else in the world.” ATM has built and installed aquariums in countries that include Korea, Turkey, Scotland and every state in the United States except for South Dakota. “We’ve been in every direction … We’ll crate it up, ship it, crane it, fork-lift it, install it, plumb it, we try to get 90 percent done in our shop and then ship it out and then go (to install it),” King said.
Using acrylic to build tanks is ATM’s specialty. “Acrylic has a lot of properties that glass doesn’t. You can thermal-form acrylic. You can bend acrylic. It’s 99 percent optically clear; glass has a glare to it. (Acrylic) will last a lot longer; if there are any scratches, it can be repaired,” Raymer, a Brooklyn native, explained. A visit to ATM’s nearly 17,000-square-foot warehouse, located a few miles from the Strip, reveals hundreds of sheets of acrylic just waiting to be shaped in behemoth ovens and cut by computerized saws. Walking around the warehouse is like touring Disneyland—there are stations for painting tank props, an area with different sizes of PVC piping for the tank’s watering systems, a curtained-off nook for welding, huge machines that workers feed sheets of acrylic into; and birds just chilling on thick pieces of tree branches. King, a self-proclaimed animal lover, has some of his pets at work: seven birds, two cats, bearded dragons, chameleons and wax frogs. Attached to the massive warehouse are employee offices, where a live reef aquarium, two freshwater tanks and one saltwater tank catch your eye as you roam the hallway. In King’s office, there’s even a giant tank where his colorful dragon moray eel swims back and forth. Just off the offices is ATM’s retail store, where rows of tanks house 80 different species of marine life for sale. And in the store, fans of the reality show wait to catch a glimpse of Raymer or King. When they have time, the guys are more than happy to sign autographs, meet with fans and pose for pictures.
In the offices you’ll also find Heather, King’s wife and Raymer’s sister, running the accounting side of the company; and Irwin “the General” Raymer, Brett and Heather’s dad and ATM’s general manager. Yes, it’s quite a family affair at ATM. A quick family synopsis: King was commissioned by Irwin to build a tank for their home. Knowing King was single, Irwin introduced him to his two daughters. King dated Heather’s younger sister for a hot minute, but it was Heather that King really wanted, even though she had a boyfriend at the time. “I fell in love with her,” King said. So he married her, had two daughters, partnered with her brother Brett and built the ATM empire. “My family and I get along pretty good. We all have our part in the business,” Brett Raymer said. “I always felt that my family was the original reality show. I think we were the Kardashians before there were even cameras, but we’re more Married With Children type of people, very funny, having fun with each other, a lot more drama-free.”
And just how true is the famous line (the one that you’ll hear Brett Raymer saying all the time on the show), “If you dream it, ATM can build it?” “We try to really give people what they want. Nothing’s impossible—it just matters about budget. Anything in our industry can be done; it just depends on how much money you want to spend. People have a lot of crazy ideas, but when you fill them in on the cost, those ideas kind of go away,” Raymer said.
“It’s a pretty fair statement—if they dream it, we can build it,” King said. And, to watch those dreams coming to fruition, catch King, Raymer and the rest of the ATM family doing their thing every Saturday at 9 p.m. on Animal Planet.
Check out some of ATM’s tanks in Las Vegas
(Caesars Palace). The giant gum ball fish tank. “That project was sweet,” Brett Raymer said.
KISS by Monster Mini Golf
(4501 Paradise Road). A fish tank dedicated to one of the greatest rock ’n’ roll bands of all time. “That one rocked,” said Brett Raymer, who was psyched to meet some of the band, as he grew up listening to their music.
(Palms). The ATM team built a 26-foot long shark tank; they filled it with eight sharks. Today, the tank holds about 18 sharks.
(Tropicana). The mob-themed 1,100-gallon L-shaped tank even holds two plasma screen TVs inside. “It’s like mobster New York-style. It was definitely an exciting project,” King said.