Victor Santucci’s Pet Shop will offer holistic foods, treats and supplements for all types of pets, with a particular focus on birds, including wellness and food services.
By Matt Scovalos | September 29, 2022
Victor Santucci remembers April 5, 2022 as one of the most difficult days in his life.
That’s the day a fire broke out in a restaurant adjacent to the Garden State Pet Center, his company in Matawan, and then spread to the store, killing about 40 animals inside.
“After that, I didn’t really sleep for that long,” Santucci said. “I treat them like my children.”
For Santucci, as devastating as the fire was, it also gave him a chance to relocate his pet business, which he purchased in 2018, home to South Jersey.
Now the Oaklin native is transforming the former HomeKraft Kitchens storefront on the White Horse Pike into the next iteration of the Garden State Pet Center.
“I’m going back home where I know people,” Santucci said. “All my friends and family are here. The communities here are really great.”
The store’s mission is to create a friendly and welcoming environment for pet owners to learn about their animals and access the food, supplements, and merchandise for pets they need to care for them. Santucci prides itself on selling quality retail products with a proven track record, and wants to become a source of useful information for customers to learn more about their pets.
“I’ve always loved pets, but the market is full of misinformation about pet health,” Santucci said. “My focus is on holistic, natural foods, treats, and supplements for all animals. I focus only on foods that have been shown to be beneficial for the animal.”
Food packaged at the Garden State Pet Center will be organic and human grade; The store will also carry raw food, and provide customers with education on its benefits.
“The little independent pet store that really understands the nutritional needs of every animal is worth its weight in gold,” Santucci said. “This is my passion: making sure pets are properly nourished and enriched in terms of toys, bedding and attachments.”
The Garden State Pet Center will also stock pets, excluding dogs and cats. The shop specializes in exotic and domestic birds (sparrows, canaries, conifers, Amazons, parrots, toucans, parrots), reptiles (ball snakes, corn snakes, lizards, geckos, frogs), small mammals (rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, chinchillas, son Lender), and betta fish. Santucci will also provide animal and small bird grooming services.
He’s also building a “connection center” within a 2,500-square-foot retail space, where potential pet owners can meet and interact with the animals before taking one home.
It will include a drinks station and a seating area, and Santucci expects it to be a particularly illustrative experience for those who buy birds.
“I don’t send a bird with just anyone,” he said.
“You have to match the bird with the person.
“We wean the birds at a very young age, sometimes two weeks, and hand-feed them,” Santucci said. “It creates a human bond, making it easier to move into their home, and the new parent can come and spend time with them.
“I’ve had people come in seven days a week, even for an hour a day, until the bird is ready to go.”
Santucci also wants to develop trusted relationships with his clients, best to support decision making about their pets and pet care. He encourages them to contact him at any hour via social media channels, and promises them a quick response.
“We are the kind of business where you can send messages to our Facebook page at any time of the day or night,” he said. “If you are awake, I will respond.
“We want to forge lifelong bonds and friendships with our customers,” Santucci said. “We want them to be comfortable with their pets. We want to be a resource.”
The Garden State Pet Center is located at 226 South White Horse Pike in Audubon. The storefront is targeting an opening in late fall. Business hours start from 10 am to 8 pm daily. For more information, call 856-617-6871, or visit Exoticpetsnj.com.
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