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@Work: TLC Pet Store

May 1, 2007 — If you’ve taken a walk down Frederiksted’s Queen Street this month, you’ve probably seen the parrots and fish in the window of a new neighbor.
St. Thomas businessman Larry Boschulte opened the TLC Pet Store in the Suarez building March 31, expanding from an existing pet store and petting zoo on St. Thomas. Right now the Frederiksted store sells parrots, finches and other birds; saltwater fish; and ferrets and other pet rodents.
With new stores opening up and new condominiums just recently finished, Queen Street seems to be undergoing a transformation from primarily bars and pool halls to a more mixed, downtown setting. TLC is part of that transition.
Boschulte said his highest priority for the store now is to increase inventory. Dawn Thomas, a veterinary assistant, runs the store on a day-to-day basis along with her family, while Boschulte minds the store in St. Thomas.
“I’ve been coming to the Ag Fair since 1999,” Boschulte said. “I’ve been back every year except 2001 when I was doing an internship on Capital Hill. That is how I first met Dawn (Thomas). She’s been helping me the last three years. Her son works with 4-H, and he’s good with animals, too …. She knows animals and cares about them, and I’ve come to rely on her. So I’m really happy it worked out for her to take care of things.”
Thomas brings a solid background and dedication to her work, Boschulte said.
“You have to be disciplined,” he said. “Rain or shine, if you don’t feel well or if something comes up, it doesn’t matter; you have to go take care of the animals no matter what. An animal may not starve because you miss one feeding, but just the stress can weaken their immune system, and the next thing you know your animals are sick. Dawn (Thomas) knows this and knows what has to be done.”
A native of St. Thomas, Boschulte has been in the pet business since 2000, but the roots of the enterprise go back to his college business studies. After getting a degree in entrepreneurial studies from Xavier University in Ohio in 1991, Boschulte returned home to St. Thomas and held a variety of positions in government and private business. As time went by, he began to feel he needed to put his studies to use.
“In 1999, I was 29 and I told myself by the time I was 30 I had to open a business,” he said. “I started with small Shetland ponies I would take to the agricultural fair, to birthday parties and private functions. I had been doing that as a hobby since before Marilyn, so around ’95 or so.”
In 2000, Boschulte opened up his pet store and the petting zoo soon followed.
“It was a natural move for me,” he said. “My mother’s family farmed and we always had animals around. We raised rabbits and Rhode Island Reds (chickens)."
The decision to open a store on St. Croix came out of his trips here for the annual St. Croix Agricultural Fair.
“People were asking me to bring animals over to sell, especially aquarium fish,” Boschulte said. “There seems to be demand, so I thought I should see about setting up a shop. A lot of people told me not to do it in Frederiksted because of the economy and the problems here. But I love Frederiksted. It is a beautiful town, especially since the waterfront has been completed. I think the town is getting ready to take off.”
Boschulte looked at several properties before coming to the location in the Suarez building. He plans to see how business goes in this location, then he hopes to set up a petting zoo as well.
“The petting zoos are good businesses and fun,” Boschulte said. “I get kids in from elementary schools, camps, kindergartens and day cares — younger kids. They have fun and so do I. Every state I go to, I visit the local zoo and check out the kids’ section to see what other places are doing.”
Sensitive to the concerns of animal-rights activists, Boschulte made clear he feels he treats his animals well.
“I’m in this business because I love animals,” he said. “And I have a financial stake, too. If the animals are not healthy and happy, I don’t have anything to sell. I understand why animal lovers worry, but I work hard to keep mine healthy and happy.”
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