I was 10 years old when my parents gave me two small ten gallon aquariums for Christmas. I loved going to the local pet shop on weekends and picking out fish and stuff for the tanks. After a few months of fish keeping a friend and I started working on Sundays at the local pet shop. I really don’t know why two 10 years olds were allowed to run a pet shop but luckily we were and we had a great time.
My parents saw the interest I had in the fish hobby and decided to place an offer on the local pet shop the owner was trying to sell, probably because he was letting two ten-year-olds work there!
Luckily that deal fell through and my parent's attention turned to another location. Somehow they got the money and a person to help run it. Polly’s Pets opened on May 6, 1977. I missed the first day of business because my school had a dance that I had to go to. I haven’t missed many days since that however.
When we opened, the pet business was mainly composed of stores with a bunch of cages with a few animals placed in them. We were determined to make a difference. My parents, Norm & Trudy Housley, didn’t know anything about pets but they were determined to make it work. My dad was a real estate agent and my mom was a fourth-grade teacher. They would work after their other work and do their best to figure out the pet business. I would come in after school and clean cages and dust. Being only eleven I wasn’t allowed to wait on customers after I kept insisting that I could, they finally let me. It was exciting to have adults asking me questions about their pets and actually listening to what I said. Not all customers wanted an eleven-year-old to wait on them but most people did not mind, provided I was giving them the correct information. Thus early I learned the importance of learning the products and about the pets.
My parents gave me a lot of latitude to do what I thought the shop needed. I think I was sixteen when I convinced my friends to help me tear down some walls and expand a dog food area in the shop. When it worked I learned the importance of constantly upgrading and changing the store. When I was nineteen I was in college and working in the shop. The store’s manager left and I decided to take on the store full time. We expanded several times over the next few years until we moved into an old Montgomery Wards catalog store. This move nearly doubled our size and luckily so did our business.
When I turned twenty my wife and my best friend convinced me to visit Disneyland in California. I thought we could save money and visit AstroWorld in Houston but they told me that Disneyland was quite different. They were right!
Visiting Disneyland was probably the single most important trip in my life. While there I saw the cleanest, friendliest, neatest place I have ever been. Ever since that time I have tried to instill to everyone in the store how important it is to give the customers the cleanest, most entertaining pet shop in San Antonio.
Steven J. Housley