By Pete Zamplas-
Large exotic fish, playful puppies, cute kittens, colorful birds, mysterious reptiles and a curious ferret await visitors to Hendersonville Pet Shop.
The store is at 1400 Spartanburg Hwy./U.S. 176 in Hendersonville, at the northeast corner with Brooklyn Avenue and across Brooklyn from Boyd Collision Center. The building housed a hardware and later furniture stores.
There are 76 aquariums, 30 bird cages, and in the front room 13 kennels with active puppies who are attention-grabbers visually. Sound-wise, leave it to the large African grey parrot in the large second room that mimics a cat’s meow in its call. Birds get hand fed. Reptiles in the shop include a Jackson’s Chameleon native to tropical rain forests, and a desert Uromastyx. A ferret is quick to come to onlookers.
Fish vary from tiny micro fish to large Severum cichlids; one is humungous yet docile. The Severums’ 90-gallon tankmates include perky submarine-shaped Banded Leoporinus, huge Silver Dollar fish, and Medusa Pleco catfish.
Owner Brandon Hooper has 21 years of experience in the pet store business. He started in the last millennium in 1998, at age 14 when an East Henderson student. He is a 2002 East grad. He managed Fish ‘n Pets, in Atha Plaza where the new Publix supermarket is. In 2016, he launched a new pet store business.
He is proud of the shop’s retro-feel, of what he calls a “timeless experience of a ‘real pet shop.’ He said a typical customer reaction is “this is the type of pet shop that I had, when I was growing up.” He said regular customers include from neighboring counties.
Brandon is an animal lover. He named his lively Chihuahua Psyche, for her abundant “life force.” Brandon’s first dog was a friendly Lab mix. His initial pet fish were colorful, glowing small neon tetra. He added swordtails. He later took on a bichir eel/“dragon fish.” It would “perch up on his two pectoral (front, below) fins, and look at you.” It grew to ten inches long. After it perished, he got another one. He named each Poseidon, after the ancient Greek mythical sea god.
Brandon is the shop’s Poseidon, but he has very helpful cohorts such as Jessica Bass and Ramona Owens. Ramona’s own parrot, Iago the White-capped Pionus, wised up that if he squawks enough the workers let him out of his cage in the front room. Thus, he periodically sits atop the cage. Ramona has worked 16 years in pet stores — mostly with Brandon in Fish ‘n Pets.
The two pet specialists most often handling fish are Brandon and Dylan. They can rattle off a fish specie’s long genus name and note its native habitat. They are extremely knowledgeable about fish species’ behavioral tendencies, compatibility with other species, mating indicators, and care needs.
They know which (mostly larger) fish like to catch and eat feeder fish. The store’s feeder minnows and baby guppies are a big draw, at a mere ten cents each. They also know about snails and plants they sell.
Dylan said some customers also ask about aquarium plants, such as their nutritional supplements. Very distinctive for a pet shop is how many smaller tanks have much plant life in them and even at the surface, such as Bacopa and clover-like Pennywort. This gives fish much hiding space, to better relax and acclimate, and helps aerate tanks.
Newest accessories in the store include ornate fashion leashes and collars. There are dog life jackets, and tasty food treats.
Grooming is another way to have one’s pet pampered and looking its best. Caleb Brown, 20, is the full-time groomer. He absorbed tips from Blue Ridge Community College’s new dog grooming 101 and 102 classes months ago. He does grooming in a back room, on a table and in a new bath tub. He said many regular clients bring in their dogs about every seven weeks. The dogs recognize him, and many act “excited” to see him.
Caleb’s own dogs are Athena a gentle small Shih Tzu, and Remy a “Shih Tzu-Pomeranian “Shih-Pom” mix. He is perceptive about temperament of dog breeds and an individual canine client, in figuring how to best handle it. A Chihuahua tends to be restless, a German shepherd calmer, he said. “Every dog’s different,” Caleb said, so he is quick to adjust tactics to their “body language.”
“Some dogs tolerate” bathing or hair clipping, he said, while others “love the attention.”
For more info, call 692-1143 or check www.hendersonvillepetshop.com.