Longstanding Squirrel Hill pet store moving to Sharpsburg | TribLIVE.com

Longstanding Squirrel Hill pet store moving to Sharpsburg

Juliette Rihl | For the Tribune-Review
Sara Smith is moving her pet store from Squirrel Hill to Sharpsburg.
Juliette Rihl | For the Tribune-Review
Sara Smith is moving her pet store from Squirrel Hill to Sharpsburg.
Juliette Rihl | For the Tribune-Review
Sara’s Pets and Plants in Squirrel Hill. The pet store is moving to Sharspburg.

After 50 years, Sara’s Pets and Plants — previously Alan’s Pets and Plants — is leaving Squirrel Hill.

The last day of business at the Murray Avenue store in Squirrel Hill was Oct. 5. Owner Sara Smith said she plans to open the new location, at 908 Main St. in Sharpsburg, in November.

Smith took over the longstanding pet store a year ago at just 24 years old. Alan Cohen had owned the business for over 49 years.

“The rent and the renovations are way more than I expected,” Smith said.

High renovation costs and building permit issues solidified her decision to move.

The Sharpsburg location is being updated with brand-new walls, flooring, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning, so Smith anticipates a smooth transition.

Smith sees Sharpsburg as a great place to start the next phase of her business. Not only does she live there, but it’s also an area that is becoming increasingly welcoming to new business owners.

“The only reason I did Sharpsburg, or even thought about it, is because so many people were like ‘please, please, please, please move here,’ ” Smith said.

The new location is significantly smaller — only 1,000 square feet of floor space, compared to the Squirrel Hill location’s 3,800 square feet.

“I think having a smaller space will be much more manageable and I won’t be going crazy,” she said.

Smith said the decision to move has been the biggest challenge of an otherwise successful first year in business.

“It has ups and downs, obviously, like any first year of business. But I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from customers,” Smith said.

Customer Anita Buzzy-Prentiss of Swisshelm Park remembers when Smith took over the store in 2018.

“I was very excited to go in and see some new fresh energy,” Buzzy-Prentiss said. “She was really positive and made a lot of new, nice changes.”

The store’s customer loyalty is strong. Earlier this month Smith posted a request on Facebook for volunteers to foster about 50 animals for the month of October. Within two hours, all of the animals — including a Savannah monitor and a bearded dragon — had been claimed.

Smith added several new touches to the business, including grooming, children’s birthday parties, and educational programming. Her first school program was at St. Edmund’s Academy in Squirrel Hill last spring.

“I bring my animals in, I talk about them — biology, how to take care of them, conservation — things like that,” Smith said of the program. She intends on building a more robust educational program to accommodate the requests she already receives from schools.

“I want to get a real, legitimate program in place,” Smith said.

After she took over the store, Smith made the decision to start rescuing its animals, rather than buying them from breeders.

“I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to be 100% rescue, and I didn’t know when,” Smith said. Luckily, the change was easier than anticipated. “It only took about a month or two,” she said.

In September, she had over 100 pets for sale, including exotic reptiles, birds, cats, small mammals and fish, almost all of which were rescued.

Smith’s ultimate goal is to open a two-part organization: a nonprofit pet rescue, and a storefront to find the animals new homes and provide educational programming about animals and conservation.

“I hope to zone in on what I really want to do, which is rescue animals and do education,” Smith said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.