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11:02 PM   April 18, 2015
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Keeping a Landmark Alive

Andy’s Pet Shop, once threatened with homelessness, rises again in San Jose, Calif.

By Kerri Chladnicek

Andy’s Pet Shop, once threatened with homelessness, rises again in San Jose, Calif.Andy’s Pet Shop has been around so long in San Jose, Calif., that at least one customer remembers buying a monkey there.

The current owner, Lissa Shoun, who runs the store with her husband, Eric, said the original business opened in the 1950s and was owned by one family before she purchased it. The shop made a name for itself over the decades, so when Shoun took on the business, she knew it was more than just a retail operation to neighbors and customers. It was part of the city’s fabric, a legacy she took very seriously.

When the landlord sold the original building and she was suddenly without a location, Shoun wasn’t the only upset person.

“People were angry with the landlord when I announced we’d lost the lease,” she said. “People were upset that this landmark from their childhood was not going to be there anymore.”

Shoun was confident, though, because she was working on a lease for a new location. When that agreement fell through, though, things got really hairy.

“I thought I had a building to move into and it fell through at the last minute,” Shoun said. “It’s probably good for us in the long run that it did, but at the time it was devastating. I had way too much inventory. I would have sold it off, but I thought I was just moving. I just wasn’t finding anything suitable. A lot of places don’t have parking or don’t allow animals. There are so many factors to consider.”

Ultimately, Andy’s Pet Shop found a 9,000-square-foot location that is more than twice as large as the original location and less than a mile away. The neighborhood has a high-rise condominium ripe with potential customers and plenty of downtown foot traffic.

Shoun said the challenge is letting all the old customers know that Andy’s still exists and where to find it. In line with the history of the business, Shoun said she has been driving around in a 1950s-era pickup truck with a big neon advertising sign in the back.
Andy’s Pet Shop, once threatened with homelessness, rises again in San Jose, Calif.In the new location, Andy’s Pet Shop will be able to devote more space and effort to pet adoption, one of the passions that got Shoun interested in the business from the beginning. At the original location, Shoun worked with rescue organizations and shelters to have a few dogs and other pets available to see and adopt immediately. At the new location, she will devote about half the building to a space large enough for public events such as allowing shelters and rescues to bring pets to a place where animal lovers congregate.

The new adoption center will run as a non-profit entity.

“I had intended to support the adoption center out of Andy’s Pet Shop,” she said. “I do not recommend that to other shop owners who want to get involved in rescue. Now we’re strictly an adoption center, not a rescue. There will be a board of directors. They will raise money through adoption fees and fundraising events and getting people to pledge support.”

This will protect the business from unexpected expenses like veterinary bills and other incidentals for which the shop had been responsible, Shoun said, and still get as many homeless pets adopted as possible.

The original owners of Andy’s Pet Shop sold puppies and other animals, but when Shoun and her husband bought the business they switched to adoption-only.
“We’ve been a huge benefit to the rescue groups,” she said. “We immediately went to 100 percent adoption through shelters.”

Rescued pets range from cats and dogs to small mammals, rats, mice, birds and reptiles. “We’ve even had rescue fish,” Shoun said. “A tenant had been evicted and left behind a fish tank, so we took them.”

In addition to adoption events, Shoun said she is looking forward to hosting educational sessions.

“We’re hoping to do dog training and a basic bird class,” she said. “I’d also like to offer class on pet nutrition. I clicker-train my bunnies, so we’ll do a clicker training class, too.”

Shoun takes her show on the road as well, and was scheduled to talk to a sixth-grade class about pet adoption shortly after she was interviewed for this article.

Andy’s Pet Shop, once threatened with homelessness, rises again in San Jose, Calif.Shoun has a background in engineering, so one might not expect her to be so interested in education and public speaking, but her career path took an interesting turn.

“I got into technical communications,” she said. “A lot of the work I did was explaining things. I also have this passion for pets.”

The more she learned, the more she wanted to get involved.

“We met up with the bird rescue and found out how many birds were homeless,” she said. “I found I really enjoyed learning about the pets and what kind of care they needed. Eventually I realized my dream is to have a pet shop where all the animals there are rescues and all the supplies are appropriate. I wanted expert advice, classes and education.”

While the transition into the new location has been challenging, Shoun finds herself a few steps closer to achieving that dream. 

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