by Scott Hefflon
A New Breed of Pet Store Owners
Lollipop Magazine is searching for young entrepreneurs who are willing to put everything they have – morally, financially, and physically – on the line to make an idea work. There is an emptiness, a misfocus that has become standard procedure. The new breed is more interested in the project, rather than the profit. This is not a revolutionary new way of perceiving business. It’s just an honest attempt to de-emphasize the managerial-minded number cruncher, thus letting the visionary that is still freshly passionate about their hobby do what they love to do.
As the twenty-somethings in the ’90s slowly drop out or stall their formal college educations; or graduate and continue their careers inquiring about a side order of fries, there are a few risk-takers who are meeting the business world head-on. Rather than filling a slot in someone else’s money-making machine, they do their homework and start their own business because they enjoy doing what they do.
This month, we recognize the efforts of Jeff Pare and Jake Dalbec, owners of PET STORE, opening in early July on Newbury St, in Boston. Jeff, Jake, and I sat down with a microcassette recorder, a 12 pack, and a few packs of Generic Cigarettes and talked circles around such topics as: The focus of the Pet Store, the amount of Red Tape in starting, their own background in “The Business” as shopkeepers and hardcore hobbyist, inside information on S.O.P. and some really wild little-known-facts about creatures with whom we share this planet. The following report is a terribly inadequate skim job of the facts, feelings and history of two hard-working, knowledgable and down-right friendly “animal geeks.”
Jeff & Jake are childhood friends and have been roommates for the last few years. Their involvement with animals stems partly from Jake’s father, who’d worked in pet stores a decade or so ago.
As suburban teenage males are apt to do, they focused on reptiles. Their interest went beyond merely toying around with the animals. They became aware of the vast intricacies of suitable habitat, proper care and maintenance required to keep an animal “happy” and healthy. They researched origin and breeding, both natural and man-induced.
With this, their hobby took on a new light. Each has worked in various pet stores over the years, so as their hands-on experience increased, so did their reputation and understanding of “the business.” (Not to mention their extensive personal collection!)
Most notedly, the duo worked at the Back Bay Aquarium on Newbury St., which closed down last October. With a Papa Bernstien Bear look on how not to run a store, the two began the long road to starting their very own store, with their own ideas, and their own competence.
Well studied in both theory and application, Jake and Jeff stress a relaxed, friendly environment as a important strong point.
“We want to get to know the customers and earn their trust before we sell them an animal. In just about any pet store, the first thing they’ll try to do is sell you an animal, and then, maybe, after the sale, they’ll tell you how to take care of it,” Jake states. That’s is not the case with this team. Responsibility to the animals takes precedence over making a buck. Informing people and, in many cases, re-educating the misinformed, plays a very large part in the life span of an animal and the pleasure derived from it.
“So many people look at an animal, especially a reptile, and ask, ‘What does it do?’ I’m always tempted to ask back. ‘What do you do?’ When you break it down, it’s much the same. They sleep, they move around, they eat, they shit. Pretty much the same as us,” Jeff philosophizes. Despite our self-important posturing, I guess that’s about right.
We do have a way of transfering our social expectations/inadaquacies on “our pets.” Jeff confirms this saying, “I hear so many people buying fish tell me they’re doing so because their fish is lonely!” The pair laughs heartily as I, in my ignorance, wait for an explanation. ” Fish are territorial,” Jake informs me. “If you see a single, solitary fish just kinda swimming around, he’s as happy as he’s going to get.”
I guess swimming “purposely” about the tank “with colleges” is applying our lifestyle onto theirs. This concept was furthered in numerous stories J & J told of “Buying a friend” or “Playing God,” but it all came down to was the responsibility of taking care of a living creature. Watching and learning from animals takes only a patient eye and an open mind, and that’s something that these two definitely have. They have an understanding, a fascination, an appreciation, and a relationship of love and respect for each of the animals in their care. These are not products for sale, these are friends whose company the customer wishes to share. Jeff and Jake are merely arranging the introductions. The PET STORE opens in early July and should provide a good look-around, friendly and as-technical-as-you-wanna-get conversation and good prices. But then, it’s not about the money, now is it?