“Pet Store for Sale” was the ad in the Los Angeles Times that caught the attention of Don and Sue Shafer. John Shafer was nine at the time and remembers his mom and dad’s excitement when they announced the move to the family, Fresno was a long way from Palmdale. As the family truck loaded with all their belongings came up the street they could see the picture window featuring a perfectly coiffed poodle on one side and brightly colored parakeets on the other, over the the dancing dog were the words; “Poodle Grooming!”. This was the place,
all 1200 sq. ft. of it!
The Whiting family opened Whitie’s Pets in 1943 in a funny triangular building at Ventura and Hazelwood. It was a good location on a busy street through a tidy neighborhood, and they stayed there for 20 years before selling it to Don and Sue. The former barber shop owners and chicken ranchers could have just picked up where the
Whitings left off, but Don and Sue had other plans. 1968 found Whitie’s Pets in a 7,000 foot building and a little ahead of the curve… at the time there weren’t enough products being manufactured for pets to fill that much space. The former Sprouse-Reitz store at Ventura and 5th was transformed with show tanks, wonderfully merchandised displays, and a central koi pond. The Shafer family did all the work; engineering, carpentry, everything. Adapting what the department store left behind and creating something that didn’t exist
at the time, the “complete pet store”. While the pet industry caught up, Whitie’s Pets complete pet store concept worked not only in Fresno, but it attracted pet enthusiasts from all over the Valley to shop at THE pet store. In 1986 Whitie’s Pets split into two stores, serving the North and South parts of Fresno by setting up shop in the busy Shaw and Blackstone area. Dividing the stores was good for business, creating a healthy competition between the two. In 1991 Whitie’s took the opportunity to move the north location into the huge former Aurthur’s Toys building, creating an unprecedented 28,000 square feet of complete pet store. Fresno was changing, retail was flourishing in the north, and in 1995 the Ventura store was closed.
In the 90′s big box stores were sweeping the landscape, and Fresno lost a good number of local landmark business’. The timing to move into the big space was perfect, that very year 3 big box pet stores opened up with a combined 80,000 sq feet of sales space. Whitie’s Pets move had effectively leveled the playing field. Today another generation of Shafer’s are working at the store, employing 34 local people, and it’s run with the same philosophy today as it was 70 years ago… John Shafer sums it up nicely: “Make customers feel welcome in the store, keep up with product innovations, offer fair prices and deliver efficient, knowledgeable and friendly service.” 68 years, that’s a lot of happy pets!