A simultaneous opening of a 2,400-square-foot site in Oakdale, N. Y., provides 1,200 square feet of retail shopping, with
the remaining area serving as offices and warehouse storage for
online inventory and Jungle Bob brand products.
DISPELLING THE MYTHS
At Jungle Bob’s, the crusade to promote the friendly side of
the reptile world begins with a welcoming environment. Good
housekeeping is the first step in fostering this quality.
“Our stores are well lit and clean,” Smith says. “We are
hounds about that. Even with 150 animals, people comment on
the lack of smell.”
Animals are presented in zoolike, natural habitats, which
might feature sand, rock or a lush-looking tropical cage.
“Gone are the days of newspaper in a fish tank,” he says.
“We do vivariums, and when you come to our store, you will
see species from every corner of the globe.”
To further inspire passion and promote understanding and
education, visiting children and parents alike are encouraged to
touch and hold animals. “Animal encounters” foster this aware-
ness. For this experience, children select an animal to handle and
study, while a Jungle Bob’s “reptile guru” answers questions and
supervises the session. Weekends and holidays are busy times
for this activity.
“It’s like a lesson, and during holidays we have someone on
staff just for the encounters,” Smith says.
For families not quite ready to undertake live animal ownership, the Jungle Bob Natural History Gift Shop features everything from dinosaur teeth to invertebrate fossils. Children can
browse a selection of quality, hand-painted, realistic miniature
replicas of their favorite reptiles, sea creatures, dinosaurs and
“The kids may not walk out of the store with a live animal,
but they can leave with a true-to-life plastic bearded dragon,”
Smith says. “It’s like a wink to the parents, a ‘Hey, when you’re
ready for a live animal, you know where to come.’”
Smith notes that parental support has changed over the years,
and he now sees equal interest from both mothers and fathers.
“Once mom or dad are interested, we’re off to the races,”
Curiosity is often sparked in young children attending a
Jungle Bob Smith reptile presentation.
“Most of the kids that come to the store later are not the little
precocious ones in the first row, but the child in the back who
didn’t raise their hand,” Smith says. “I can see it in his or her
“You have to be friendly and welcoming,” he says. “We
are a fun place to visit.”
Contributing to this ambience, Jungle Bob reptile gurus are
enthusiastic hobbyists, able to impart education and expertise,
and often specializing in their own field of interest. For instance,
one staff member is an invertebrate specialist, focusing on taran-
tulas or scorpions. Another, a former aquarium store owner, is
able to assist customers with their aquatic needs. Smith’s heart is
with snakes and lizards. Smith’s sons also work in the business,
adding their own unique capabilities to the mix.
“Everyone has their own little niche, but they are also well
rounded,” Smith says. “If you ask our favorite animal, we will
all say something different.”
In a new hire, Smith says, formal study isn’t as important
as enthusiasm; however, a staff with combined years of prac-
tical knowledge reaching well into triple digits augments the
“I have a couple of employees who are in their early 20s, and
they really dazzle me with their knowledge,” he says. “They
are so involved in the hobby and, as a result, are well informed
through self education.”
EVERYTHING FOR THE ENTHUSIAST
Enthusiasts can browse a diverse selection of reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates, along with a product mix of foods and
supplies to please even the most ardent hobbyist. Smith noted a
strong movement toward more natural-looking cages.
“Taking care of a large aquarium can be a full-time job,
whereas a 50-gallon tank with colorful poison dart frogs from the
Amazon, beautiful plants and a misting system is every bit the
relaxing living room conversation piece—at one-fifth the price
and a tenth the maintenance,” he says.
An inventory of every necessity to create that focal point includes items such as exotic hardwoods, driftwood, rock formations, stones, plants and misters.
Joining these choices is the Jungle Bob’s Reptile World brand.
Launched in 2015, it features reptile and aquarium products.
“We are private labeling pieces to sell in the store, online or to
other retailers,” Smith says. “Most of the products are European,
so we offer some interesting items that nobody else has.”
Vivarium displays not only house a formidable array of
Joey Calamusa knows a good reptile store when he enters one. The aficionado’s reptile journey
began as a youngster owning box
turtles—common near his home
on Long Island in New York. As a
teenager, he moved on to a boa
constrictor. Today, the enthusiast
possesses an array of creatures,
including Argentine black and white
tegus, a green tree python, leopard
geckos, red-eyed crocodile skinks
and the ball python morphs that he
“I’m pretty stacked,” he says.
A long-time Jungle Bob’s
customer, Calamusa appreciates both
the wide-ranging mix and competitive
pricing of both animals and supplies.
“They pretty much have every
reptile you can dream of at fair
prices,” he says.
Calamusa purchases food for his
animals at Jungle Bob’s.
“The food selection can’t be beat,”
he says. “They have every size of
rodent—more than anywhere else in
my area,” he says. “I often wonder
why other stores selling reptiles don’t
offer the range of food choices that I
find at Jungle Bob’s.”
However, beyond the convenience
of one-stop shopping, the outstanding
customer service and staff member
expertise keep him coming back.
“The experience is so interactive,”
he says. “They take time to explain
things in detail—for instance, where
an animal comes from and how to
take care of it. So many people walk
in and don’t have a lot of experience
with reptiles, and the staff members
are always willing to take an animal
out and help visitors get over their
fear. They are just really good, kind
When Calamusa is creating a
new vivarium or terrarium, he turns
to these supportive associates for
insight and design tips.
“I’ve had a couple of really cool
terrariums built with waterfalls and
live plants, and there’s a lot of work
that goes into putting that together,”
he says. “They have educated me
from top to bottom.”
A trip to Jungle Bob’s is always an
experience, and Calamusa admires
the learning curve presented at every
“Even if I’m just standing nearby, I
can’t help but overhear conversations,
and I always discover something
new,” he says. “I’ve been into reptiles
since I was a little kid and feel very
knowledgeable, but it’s like the folks
at Jungle Bob’s were raised with
reptiles since they were babies, their
knowledge is that extensive.”
1. Jungle Bob’s hosts “animal encounters” sessions in-store,
which gives children and parents the opportunity to handle and
study live animals while a staff member answers questions and
supervises the session.
2. Animals at Jungle Bob’s Reptile World are displayed in zoolike,