A blast of bubbles greets customers as they approach the Gallery of Pets store in Northwest Austin. Inside, photos of dogs and cats are pasted on the ceiling, and a chatty 40-year-old African gray bird, named Leroy, is perched by the counter.
As the pet store prepares to celebrate its 40th anniversary Nov. 12, owner Glenda Bone said she believes customers continue to return because the shop offers a level of customer service that has not been seen since the 1960s.
“People will come in from the [big-]box stores … and they have questions for us that those people over there can’t answer because they’re young kids that don’t have the knowledge we have,” she said. “We can answer questions for them, and they think that’s really cool.”
Bone and her husband, Joe, bought the store from the original owners in 2006, just in time to save the business from liquidation, she said.
Store manager Kathy Sunvison, however, has worked at Gallery of Pets since it opened in 1977. Collectively, Bone said the store offers over 100 years of pet knowledge and experience.
Before owning Gallery of Pets, Bone worked at a big-box pet store for six years and then ran her own aquarium-maintenance business. Bone said because of her experience, the store’s specialty is in both fish and birds. Additionally the store sells rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, reptiles and amphibians. The store also offers pet-sitting services and aquarium cleaning.
Attention to detail is an important aspect of Gallery of Pets’ customer service. Birds come to the store as young as 4 weeks old from Texas-based breeders, so staffers hand-raise and feed them gruel through a syringe as they mature, Bone said.
Before a bird can be taken home by a new owner, Bone said the staff monitors it in its new cage to make sure it still retains its weight. After they have been bought, the store offers free wing clipping to the bird for its entire lifespan.
“I care about the animals,” she said. “I want to make sure they’ve got the best possibility of survival that I can give them when they go to a new home.”
Gallery of Pets
11689 Research Blvd., Austin
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. noon-6 p.m.