San Diego Community News Group
Pet Kingdom in the Midway District bridges the gap between reptile and fish lovers. That’s the recipe for GM / Co-owner Matt Thomas’ success at his exotic pet store at 3191 Sports Arena Blvd.
“We’re a live animal grocery store,” Thomas said of the eight-year-old pet store which is divided into four departments: reptiles, saltwater and freshwater fish, and produce. dry for mammals.
“It’s very difficult to be in one segment (fish or exotic) and stay competitive and thrive,” Thomas said. “We’re the largest independent full-line pet store in San Diego. Most of the other stores are strictly reptiles, or strictly fish. “
There are a few major stars in Pet Kingdom. One is Lady Lavender, a 150-pound, 17-foot Indonesian reticulated python who is not for sale but would cost over $ 3,000 if she were.
“They are easy animals to keep,” Thomas noted of Lady Lavender and snakes in general. “They eat once a week. Poop once a week. Once people get over their fear, if they care about them, they have one. Then they realize that they can accommodate more. Then it just makes snowballs. Soon you will have a room full of snakes.
The African sulcata (spurred) turtles kept in a central enclosure in the store are also a major attraction.
“They are found in the grassy regions of North Africa and they are herbivores that eat hay, grass and leafy vegetables,” Thomas noted of his turtles sold for over $ 400. Thomas called the Sulcatas “territorial and very curious”. He noted that they are both entertaining and difficult to keep and maintain.
“They dig giant burrows to escape the scorching sun and find moisture in the soil,” Thomas said. “So we won’t sell them to someone unless they own their property, because they wreak havoc on people’s backyards. And they grow big, 150 pounds is on average. So after a few years you have a rock-like animal trying to move.
But exotic turtles also have their plus points.
“They are very pleasant animals to own,” said Thomas. “The Sulcatas will come to you in your garden and follow you to see what you are doing. It’s a bit like having a shell dog that lives over 100 years.
The co-owner of the pet store owns a four-acre ranch in Alpine, East County, where he breeds many of his reptiles, including 76 adult Sulcatas. He added that Pet Kingdom will also help customers raise their own reptiles. “Customers can bring their eggs,” he says. “We’re going to incubate them, and then we’ll divide the hatches.”
Thomas spoke about the origin of his love for reptiles.
“I grew up near a large canyon in Chula Vista with very little development and I would catch lizards and snakes and babysit them for a few weeks,” he said. “I did show and tell stories from the second year at school. This is how my passion started. It just evolved from there.
Thomas worked in a pet store as a teenager and was later a reptile keeper for the San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park.
Unlike many other companies, COVID has been a boon to those, like Thomas, who work in the pet industry. “With the people at home over with their pets – we were just overwhelmed, as were those selling camping and outdoor items,” he said. “We have had tremendous growth – and record sales – during COVID.”
On the Pet Kingdom fish and aquarium side, Thomas noted, “Over 50% of people who buy their first aquarium continue with aquariums for the rest of their lives. It’s easy to get hooked. “
The pet entrepreneur said studies show that “owning your own fish will reduce your stress levels.” He added that Pet Kingdom would do anything to help customers with their fish, from consulting them on which species go best together to selling them properly mixed salt water for their aquariums.
“People will be hiring some of our staff to make sure everything is set up and working properly,” Thomas added. “We can also put them in touch with someone who maintains the tanks professionally, so all they have to do is feed them, watch them and enjoy them. We also build many aquariums in buildings and restaurants. “
Thomas said the biggest trend in fish today is aquascaping, where people can turn their aquariums, large or small, into underwater landscapes.
Thomas spoke about Pet Kingdom’s business strategy.
“We like to understand the way of life of people before we sell them an item to make sure that what they are getting themselves into, they will be able to accommodate; make sure they’re there for the long haul, ”he concluded. “A terrible thing is that someone buys a saltwater aquarium and then realizes that they don’t have an hour a day to devote to it, or that they don’t have fun with it and lose everything. just all interest. The animals will eventually suffer. So we want to educate people to the best of our ability. Let them know what they are getting into. And, as issues arise, we’ll coach them on how to fix those issues.
Where: 3191 Sports Arena Blvd.
Contact: petkingdom.com, 619-224-2841.