By Greg Little
You might say Brian Batten has a "pet project." "It is a love of animals," said Batten, owner of Fins and Feathers in Honesdale.
The business recently expanded its operation, something Batten has been wanting to do for several years.
His love of animals dates back a long time. While still living at home, his room was a "mini pet shop," he says.
"I took the hobby to the extreme," said Batten.
It started innocently enough with a family dog. Then, Batten wanted a cat, which he got.
"Then I got into fish," said Batten.
In July 1995, Batten opened Fins and Feathers at its Willow Avenue location.
At that time, there was just 1,200 square feet of space. In 2001, another 800 square feet was added.
After that, Batten wanted to add more room. He watched several businesses come in and out of the building, all the while hoping one day he would be able to take the entire building.
Last October, he got his wish and added another 1,200 square feet, bringing the total square footage to 3,200 square feet.
With the expansion, Batten says they are able to carry more of just about everything.
"We are carrying more in all areas," he said.
For example, they have expanded their reptile, small animal, salt water as well as dog and cat products. They also have fish and aquarium supplies as well as various rodents, including mice, rats, hamsters, gerbils and more.
The store also has a wide variety of reptiles including snakes, frogs, scorpions, lizards and more.
Though the store does not carry dogs and cats, they do have all of the supplies necessary for those animals. That includes foods, treats, medications, bedding, toys and much more.
With the expansion, Batten hopes business will continue to grow.
He said the pet industry is "one of the top 10 industries that has grown through the recession." Batten reasons owning a pet is something which can be very affordable.
"It is a comfort thing," said Batten.
Another area of the pet market involves senior citizens, he said.
Batten has worked with area nursing homes and has done talks with the seniors about having a pet. He said pets can be a "good motivation" for seniors, keeping them active.
Batten also works with animal shelters in the area, saying they will hold some pets for him and he works with them in placement of various types of animals.
-- Very interesting
So what is the most interesting creature which Batten has dealt with at Fins and Feathers? "Probably the hissing cockroaches," he said.
He said there are people who love "strange bugs," but said in defense of the cockroaches, "They are fascinating creatures."
One thing which continues to fascinate Batten is how he handles creatures "from all over the world." That’s especially true of the fish, which come from all corners of the earth.
Part of his job as a pet store owner is educating people when they are about to make a major purchase.
For instance, when it comes to aquariums, people have to "know the science of how it works." In fact, that goes for most everything he sells. People are "creating environments" when they purchase and take care of pets.
If someone walks into his store not quite knowing what they want, Batten said he will sit with them and discuss the various options.
"I go through it with them and counsel them and educate them," said Batten.
For instance, some of the birds he sells can live up to 60 years.
"That’s not a child’s pet," he said. "It takes some thought."
--- Steady business
"It is going great," said Batten of the business in general and particularly the expansion of the store. "The community is very receptive to this. And we are meeting more needs."
Another thing which helps the business be successful is the fact they have "loyal customers," he said.
The majority of his customers are from close by, however, he said his market has expanded to include parts of New York, northern Wayne County, the Mount Pocono area and beyond. The internet has allowed him to expand even more, including customers all across the country.
But none of that would be possible without the number one goal of Fins and Feathers — customer service.
"We pride ourselves on customer service," said Batten, who has three full-time employees in addition to the many hours he puts in at the store.
The store is open seven days a week. It is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. And Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can call them at 253-3132 or visit finsandfeatherspa.com for more information.
As part of the expansion, the store will have a grand opening on Saturday, Jan. 19. There will be a DJ on hand, giveaways every half hour along with special deals throughout the day.
"We want to continue to grow and catch new interests," said Batten.