CHATHAM, Virginia – Looking for an exotic animal? Big box pet stores don’t have what you want? It might be time to head to Pet Safari, located at 36 Center Street in Chatham.
âWe have freshwater stingrays and a good selection of your freshwater fish. We also have ferrets and chinchillas, which you can’t get at PetSmart,â said store owner Kole Leftwich. “You have to go to a local store to get a ferret, and we don’t have any other local stores around.”
Pet Safari also carries parakeets, king pythons, iguanas, spiders, frogs, crabs, rabbits, and other small mammals.
Leftwich, a native of Danville, worked at Hargrave Military Academy for three years. After getting tired of âworking for everyoneâ and being drawn to the idea of ââbeing his own boss, he began to identify the need for a local pet store in Chatham.
âI did a few odds and ends after I left Hargrave. During that time I was talking to several people in the community, and they were like, ‘I’m sick of going to Danville or Lynchburg just. to buy a frozen mouse, or some fish food, or to get a bag of cat food that I need, âLeftwich said. âWhen World Pets closed, many people found themselves in a dead end shopping locally, where they had to drive 25 minutes to Danville or 30 minutes to Lynchburg to purchase their pet supplies. “
Six months ago, at the age of 21, Leftwich began to wonder what was expected of him to open a business. With the help of family members, he was able to fulfill his dream of owning his own pet store.
âI just got started, and here I am,â he said.
Leftwich has always been drawn to and wanted to work with animals.
âIt started at home as a child,â he reflected. âI always went to rivers and streams and found little caterpillars and butterflies and kept them when I was a kid. When I grew up I started to be interested in turtles and fish. I have had a variety of animals that grew up as a kid. “
Letfwich said he has had clients from as far away as Martinsville and South Boston. The store is slowly but steadily establishing itself as a regional entity for exotic animals and pet supplies.
âWe’ve actually had customers who work at PetSmart in Danville to come here to buy their fish,â Letfwich said. “We have also had clients who work in the Lynchburg pet store who have come here to buy pet supplies because we are maybe $ 5 cheaper than what they have there.”
Pet Safari is focused on the “local store” mentality of most Chathamites, who would rather support a small business than a big box store in a big city. It’s also perfect for gathering pet care supplies obtained from the Pittsylvania Pet Center in Chatham.
Pet Safari is open from 10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. Monday to Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. The store is closed on Sunday.
For more information, call 434-433-2192.