La Verne Magazine
Spring 1998

"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," says Njoo.

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.

Back to Main Page