La Verne Magazine
"La Verne's Small-Town Businesses"
Racing Hamsters and Teachers' Pets
by Laura Czingula
photography by Christie Reed
While scrubbing fish tanks may not sound like much of a workout, Ricky
Syamsuri, a 24-year-old senior at Cal State Fullerton, admits that his duties
range from rationing feeder crickets for customers to climbing on top of
tanks. Syamsuri, who spends some of his free time lifting weights, works
four days a week, six hours a day at the La Verne shop.
When a customer walks into Foothill Aquatics and Pets, she will get
a nostril full of rabbits, dog food and salt water, all combined into one,
and still be able to hear birds chirping from the back of the store. That
is what this unique store has to offer to the city of La Verne. Foothill
Aquatics and Pets is a one-of-a-kind pet shop that has been operating since
1992, when John and Victoria Lim decided that they were interested in opening
up a pet shop.
Knowing neither one of them had really any business experience, Victoria
Lim asked her sister, Liana Njoo, who owns Photo Finishing in Glendora and
has experience in how to run a business, to join them in opening up Foothill
Aquatics and Pets in La Verne. Njoo agreed, and the three of them have been
business partners ever since.
"Biology was my major at Cal Poly, Pomona, in dealing with animals,
and that is how I entered in the business venture," says Victoria Lim.
"We [Victoria and her husband John] just decided to do it [open up
Foothill Aquatics and Pets] one day."
Foothill Aquatics and Pets is located at 2349 Foothill Blvd. The business
is doing well with its usual every-week customers. However, according to
Njoo, things could always be better and pick up. "The business could
always be better; it is not exactly what we had expected with the economy,"
Unfortunately, the shopping center that Foothill Aquatics and Pets is
located in has a grocery store that has been closed and out of business
for quite a while. That has been affecting Njoo's business. "We hope
the center will re-open soon, so there will be more people coming in and
out of here," says Njoo. "We still have the regular customers
come in, though."
The store offers the basic pet shop materials, such as fish tanks and
stands, and animal food and toys for all and any type of animal.
However, Foothill Aquatics and Pets is not the average pet shop. For
the last three years, the store has dedicated one day a year for the La
Verne community children. The day consists of fun-filled events that include
hamster races and coloring contests.
Children (and adults if they are interested) from all around the community
bring their hamsters to Foothill Aquatics and Pets and race them for prizes.
"Our manufacturer builds new race tracks every year for the hamster
races," says Njoo. "The manufacturer also donates prizes for the
first, second, and third place prizes of the race," she says.
According to Njoo, about 20 children enter their hamsters into the race
every year. The registration fee is $1, and all of the funds that the store
makes are donated to the Leroy Boys Home in La Verne. "We picked Leroy
because it is closest to us, and we want to help out the community as much
as possible," says Victoria Lim.
"We always ask our manufacturer what kind of activity to do so
we can give back to community," says Njoo. "We try to improve
ourselves and give to the community as much as we can."
After the hamster races are over, the children are able to enter a coloring
contest, which is free of charge.
The children are supplied with markers, crayons and a picture to color.
They then color the picture the best they can. The children's art work is
judged by the workers at Foothill Aquatics and Pets, and a first, second
and third prize is given out to the winners. "We always try to get
new ideas and get the community involved as much as possible," says
Njoo. "We would like to expand the store someday, and we hope this
can sort of help that."
Another community involvement that the Foothill Aquatics and Pets staff
offers to the community is the Teacher's Pet Program. The program is new
this year and gives many opportunities to schools throughout the area.
The pet store donates $200 worth of merchandise to a school and teacher
of its choice. Then, John and Victoria Lim go into the classroom to teach
the children how to take care of specific animals.
Once the teaching lesson is completed by the Lims, the class of elementary
students is left with the animal, such as a hamster, along with the equipment
for the children to take care of.
"So far we have only done this once," says Njoo, referring
to the Teacher's Pet Program. "But it was a successful event at the
time," she says.
In April, they participate in the annual Family Pet Show at the Fairplex
Fairgrounds. Each year, Foothill Aquatics and Pets donates a complete kit
to the pet show. The kit is supplied with all the materials one may need
to take care of a certain pet. "For example, we give a salt water kit
that includes every thing someone would need to have a salt water fish and
to care for it," says Njoo. "It is worth a lot of money."
Inside the store there is a wide range of merchandise offered for La
Verne residents or anyone else who decides to shop at Foothill Aquatics
and Pets. "We try to carry merchandise that keeps the customers with
us," says Njoo.
The store's wide variety of merchandise is very easy to find. When someone
walks into Foothill Aquatics and Pets, she will immediately notice two long
rows of fish, fish and more fish, to the right of the store.
The tanks are stacked one on top of another and reach up to six-feet
high. All the colors of the fish and decorations inside of the tanks could
make someone feel as though she was snorkeling in Hawaii.
Directly in front of the rows of fish tanks lies another six-foot high
plastic container filled with real salt water available for customers to
purchase for their salt water fish. Near the cash register is a tarantula
as big as a hand that is for sale.
Located in the two rows by the register are pet items, ranging from
crazy, unique cat bowls to amphibian food. That is where the colorful fish
can be found. Also in the same area are about 20 fluffy rabbits-grey, white
and brown-that hop around a little area created especially for them. In
the back of the store, the birds can be found chirping. Other animal cages
are stacked throughout the store.
If there is something that a customer is looking for and Foothill Aquatics
and Pets does not carry it, the owners will special order the item and have
it for the customer within three-five days.
"We are a small business, we just want to be accepted by the community
and to just have fun," says Njoo.
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