IT’S A RETAIL LIFE
“I was in corporate business, but I had snakes all over my office,
including a 13-foot Burmese that would wreak havoc on visitors,”
he says. “They couldn’t believe a snake was cruising my office.”
As word of Smith’s reptile acumen and larger-than-life person-
ality spread, so did requests for educational presentations. Soon,
dressed in his signature hat and vest, Smith and his favorite ani-
mals were visiting schools, libraries, senior homes and children’s
“When I started doing these presentations, I had an animated
way of introducing the reptiles,” he says. “I still do this; I want peo-
ple to feel them and touch them.”
At the time, Smith also published Fauna Magazine, and traveled
the world conducting tours in a quest to share the natural habitats
of reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates with others.
When a local reptile store in Centereach, N. Y., became available
in 2009, Smith bid adieu to the business and publishing realms, instead embracing life as an independent retailer. The location had
been a reptile business for some years and had changed hands multiple times.
Under Smith’s guidance, the venture quickly found its feet and
“It wasn’t rocket science—we put product in,” Smith says.
In 2017, the endeavor relocated to what is considered the flagship store—a spacious, 3,200-square-foot space in Selden, N. Y.
“As far as I know, it’s the largest reptile store in the Northeast,”
What is Jungle Bob’s Reptile World best known for?
Bob Smith: Our knowledge and education.
What is the biggest challenge for pet retailers today?
Smith: The bottom line is keeping the doors open, and that
involves seeing the value in change and adaptation, which can
be difficult for some mom-and-pop independents. It’s important to have an online presence, for starters, and a POS system
rather than the run-of-the-mill electronic system. You have to
keep moving things around in the store and trying something
different to see if it sticks.
What is the biggest challenge for the pet industry overall?
Smith: Online sales. It’s not going to serve the pet industry if
everybody buys everything online. There is room for brick-and-mortar pet stores. Also, the laws and regulations coming out
are worrisome at all levels, and often based on incomplete information. Not every breeder is a puppy mill; not every snake is
venomous. Small business owners are the backbone of society,
but we are being regulated right out of business.
Are you watching any interesting trends right now?
Smith: There are a couple of new cages coming out that have
attracted my eye because they help with setting up conditions
inside the cage and controlling the thermostat and humidity
using a phone app. This takes the guesswork out of maintaining
an environment properly. However, pushing a button to set up a
climate for a desert or topical species also takes the knowledge
out of the equation. That’s where I draw the line—I still want
For the future?
Smith: I’m predicting good things. We are interested in expanding and are hoping to find the right recipe for that. As
for the pet industry, I think it’s going to continue to grow. I’m
optimistic that somehow consumers will realize the value in
shopping with the independent business. Please keep it local
and patronize these people.
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