Jennifer Watson has always been around animals — she grew up on a farm and her aunt raised birds for zoos — so owning an exotic pet store with her fiancè, John, wasn’t much of a surprise for those who know her.
Patriot Farms Gallery of Pets, a family-run business, has existed in Centralia for about two years and on Saturday the store had a grand reopening after upgrading its location from a 450 square-foot store on North Tower Avenue, to a 1,300 square-foot location on West Main Street.
“I’ve always had a passion for pets and have always worked with pets so it just kind of fell into place. The business has grown so much and there’s been such a great response from the community that we were able to open a larger store,” Watson said.
Watson said that an exotic pet is classified as anything that isn’t a dog or cat and Patriot Farm Gallery of Pets offers plenty of options — chinchillas, sugar gliders, fancy rats, hamsters, leopard geckos, bearded dragons, pythons, tarantulas, many types of tropical fish, frogs, turtles, tortoises, iguanas, chameleons and birds.
“We have a ton of wholesalers and we have breeders as well. I’m a rat breeder myself. We get a lot of animals through the mail. If someone wants an animal that we don’t have, we can order it and ship it to them directly or to the store,” she said.
Watson said that the sulcata tortoises are probably the store’s most popular pet. For those looking to get an exotic pet for the first time, she said that a leopard gecko, a ball python or a frog are some of the easiest to care for.
“It’s hard work but I enjoy it. To me, it’s relaxing to be around the animals, to have something to care for and have them love you unconditionally,” she said. “I like the fancy rats and the sugar gliders — if I had to pick a favorite but it’s hard to choose.”
As for Watson’s personal collection of pets at her home, she has rats, goats, a bearded dragon, a tortoise, a husky, cows, and chickens on a 10-acre tree farm in Cinebar.
“My aunt owned a bird farm where we would raise different kinds of macaws and parrots. So I was able to work with a lot of different fun creatures growing up,” she said.
During the COVID-19 closures, Patriot Farms Gallery of Pets moved their business online.
“Business slowed down but people still needed food and supplies to care for their pets so it wasn’t too bad,” she said.
Watson said that they have 50 to 60 animals in the store currently but since moving into the larger location she is looking to bring in some more inventory to fill the space.
Watson said that in the future she would like to expand and open another location. She would also like to start breeding more of her own animals so she doesn’t have to rely on other breeders.
Patriot Farms Gallery of Pets, located at 608 W Main Street in Centralia, is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.