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Author Topic: World's Biggest Pet Store  (Read 338 times)
Getbig V
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« on: September 06, 2015, 09:47:26 PM »

Norbert Zajac got his first pet, a golden hamster, when he was 4 years old. He took good care of her and bought a second hamster one year later. By the time he was 8, Zajac had bred more than 100 golden hamsters in the basement of his family’s little home. His parents, a highway cop and a housewife in Gladbeck, Germany, said he could keep as many pets as he wanted, as long as he paid for them himself. Zajac began selling hamsters to local pet shops. He diversified, adding guinea pigs, salamanders, tortoises, and a crocodile. He took over the family garden and started raising birds. “When I found out about an animal, I wanted to hold it, and when I held an animal, I wanted to breed it,” Zajac says. When he was in fifth grade, schools began taking field trips to his house. He became Germany’s youngest licensed parrot breeder in 1967, when he was 13, and quickly cornered the local market on parakeets by training them to breed at Christmastime. At 14, Zajac asked a career counselor what he should do with his life. He was told to become a steelworker.

It was easy advice to give in the 1970s to a young man from the Ruhr Valley, the heart of the West German steel industry and the most populated part of the country. Zajac, who never graduated from high school, worked early shifts at the mill so he could be home to tend his animals before dusk. At 18, he sold most of his pets after he was conscripted into the military. Two years later he was working again at the steel mill when he saw an advertisement in the local paper. A pregnant woman in the city of Duisburg, near the Dutch border, was trying to sell her pet shop before she gave birth. Zajac borrowed money from his father and took over the small store on a quiet residential street in 1975.

Today, Zajac’s pet shop fills a 130,000-square-foot warehouse in an industrial part of Duisburg. It’s called Zoo Zajac, and it unfurls, like an airport terminal, along a horseshoe in the road. It’s more than twice the size of the White House and three times as large as a Whole Foods Market. It is, according to Guinness World Records, the biggest pet shop in the world. A visitor can spend as much as €9,000 ($10,000) on a two-toed sloth or as little as €1.19 on a box of crickets. She can buy armadillos, meerkats, coatis, and monkeys; or fill aquariums with jellyfish, tetras, shellfish, and piranhas. Zoo Zajac sells 50 species of tarantula and maintains one of the finest reptile collections in western Europe—better, even, than many zoos. It houses about 250,000 individual animals of 3,000 different species. A walk around the place is essentially an endurance sport, which is why Zajac, a heavy man with two bad knees, zips up and down the aisles on a black moped. The vehicle never leaves the premises and logs more than 2,500 miles a year.

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