Vanessa Schmidt likes to say her Mesa store offers “a little bit of everything.”
And by that she means lizards, snakes, tortoises, monitors, frogs, geckos, birds, fish, guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils and pet rats – as well as some places they can live in people’s homes.
She estimates she has 5,000 varieties of critters, including fish, at her 4,000-square-foot The Pet Shop near Power and Baseline, which she has owned for nine years.
“We have 130 individual freshwater fish tanks, making up 4,000 gallons and we also have 4,000 gallons worth of saltwater fish and corals,” Schmidt said. “Freshwater fish alone we have 130 tanks with at least three species per tank so that’s 360 different freshwater fish there alone.”
The cost of owning an aquarium varies, she added, so “we’ll walk you through the process.”
“If there’s a fish you want or if it’s a
certain size tank you want, we’ll gear you towards that and if you have a budget in mind.”
“The way we have our rows set up, it shows you which fish will get along with each other,” Schmidt said. “But if you tell us what you already have in your tank, we’re also happy to tell you what fish get along, how many more fish you can comfortably fit in that size tank, etc.”
For newbies, she advises that freshwater fish are less expensive than the saltwater ones. “With saltwater fish, the requirements on the linings are a little bit different when you start growing the corals and frags into the tanks.”
Birds include cockatiels, leopards, parakeets and finches.
“We stay with the smaller breed birds,” explained Schmidt. “They make better pets for most people.”
Since last year’s breeding season wasn’t that great, according to Schmidt, she only has parakeets right now.
The shop doesn’t sell dogs or cats but carries supplies such as leashes, harnesses, dog food, litter, toys and beds.
All the rabbits at Schmidt’s store come from a rabbit rescue organization.
“With gerbils, hamsters, and pet rats we breed those all in-house so they’re all social, they’re all friendly, they all want to be handled,” explained Schmidt.
The store carries over 500 varieties of reptiles.
“The biggest thing with reptiles is I want to make sure it’s the kid’s first pet so we try not to carry snakes that are too big,” said Schmidt. “We carry pets that aren’t going to get aggressive. So, these are pets you’re going to keep for a very long time.”
Pet stores cannot sell any native Arizona venomous reptiles.
“Most of my reptiles are captive-bred so between me and my friend, we breed these all within our houses and then they come here,” added Schmidt. “So, I know they’re happy, they’re healthy and they’re ready for their new home.”
The shop even carries scorpions, including ones without a stinger.
“Scorpions are really cool pets,” said Schmidt. “Some of them you can handle. Emperor scorpions you can handle more. They’re more of a calm scorpion. The same thing with tarantulas. We have some species that are really easy to handle vs. ones that aren’t easy to handle.”
She recommends having a new pet set up in their habitat before taking it home.
“I want to show customers what decorations, water, food and lighting to have,” Schmidt explained. “It makes it a lot easier so you know exactly what you’re getting into when you go home…During the summertime, we highly recommend it because that way the animal is not sitting in a box being hotter longer than it needs to be so it can go straight to its habitat.”
Schmidt said she’s priced competitively and is even cheaper than other places that sell pet food.
“We’ve been told we have better pricing. We also have the experts in our shop so we’re able to walk you through everything. Most of my employees are all hobbyists, as well. So, we’ve been in this for a long time.”
If a customer can’t find what they’re looking for in Schmidt’s store, she said, “We try to work with our customers and send them to another shop here locally because we want to keep the money as local as possible.
As a woman business owner, Schmidt has faced many challenges.
“When I first came into the industry, it was definitely a male-dominated industry. It took everybody here a little longer to get used to me but now I’m one of the better-known shop owners here in the valley. And I’m sought out to talk to. I do all kinds of non-profit events and I’m a director for a non-profit.”
Information: 2235 S. Power Road, Mesa; thepetshopaz.com, 480-807-7840.