OAKHURST – Animal lovers are a distinctive breed, and with pet ownership in the United States having more than tripled since the 1970s, the most recent estimates suggest that about 164 million households in the U.S. currently have pets.
If you’re live in one of those households in the foothill area, you’ll be happy to know that the Bateman family pet shop known as Steve’s Tropical Fish & Pet Supply is open on Highway 41 in Oakhurst, and ready to serve.
The owners, Steve and Kristin Bateman, were both born and raised in the area; Kristin grew up in Coarsegold and Steve in North Fork.
“We went to rival high schools: Steve went to Sierra High and I went to Yosemite” said Kristin of her long-time sweetheart. “We met through a mutual friend when we were 16 years old and have been together ever since.”
The Batemans have been married now for 12 years and have two boys. Son Nicholas is 4 ½ and brother Jaxon just turned one year old. The family first had the opportunity to open up a tropical fish store more than three years ago, and while they jumped at the chance, both Steve and Kristin had their eyes on a bigger prize.
“We’ve always wanted to be a full line pet store but didn’t see that as a possibility until just this year,” the couple explained, adding that they brought in a full line of reptiles early in 2014, expanding their reptile supplies, as well. Slowly, Steve’s started branching out to sell small animals.
“Before we knew it, we had run out of space in our unit,” Kristin said. “In April we were able to secure the unit at the other end of the building we were in, and with help from some friends we moved the store over in two days.” When they reopened, Steve’s did so as a full pet store with dog and cat food supplies, reptiles, small animals and supplies, and bird supplies to go along with their already substantial selection of fish.
“We’re proud to say that when it comes to dog and cat food, we’ve been able to beat Fresno pet store prices on every brand and every flavor that we carry,” reported the store’s namesake owner. “We’ve been able to keep our overhead low so we are able to bring the prices down on just about everything we have.”
When it comes to “everything they have,” that includes quite a bit of scaled, feathered and furry creatures: Steve’s sells lizards like chameleons, bearded dragons, and geckos. They also sell snakes. Don’t forget the hamsters, guinea pigs, rats, birds, and “an ever-changing variety of fresh and salt water fish.” With all the exotica, the pet store still caters especially to good old Fido and Fifi. For instance, the dogs have their own happy hour.
“We do have Greenies Happy Hour every day from 5 – 6 p.m.,” noted Kristin. “When a customer brings in their dog, they get a free Greenies dental chew.” In addition to special days, Steve’s offers monthly specials on Natural Balance Dog and Cat food and weekly specials on Diamond Pet Foods, along with other sales and specials. In summer, they promote popsicle Saturdays “for kids and kids at heart,” and plan on setting up reptile feeding times for local kids to watch, on a daily basis.
Steve’s pet store is not only animal friendly, it’s super kid-friendly, as well. That’s partly because the nature of a pet shop is to be kid friendly, and also because the Bateman’s kids are almost always around, which is just how they like it. Especially considering they often work 11 – 12 hour days, sometimes 6 days a week.
“My almost-5-year-old Nic is actually a big help,” Kristin said of her older son, whom they proudly home-school at the shop. “He likes to help us put things away, he likes to show other kids around the store, and of course he loves to help us feed the pets we have for sale. We have an area just for the kids that includes a desk and work station.”
Jaxon, at just a year, keeps the Batemans on their toes. “Jaxon is forever getting into everything. Although it can get tough at times, having them both here is pretty wonderful. I love being able to have them with us all day. Plus, they entertain each other during the busy times.”
Being parents, the Batemans really know what works for kids when it comes to gifts involving pets and pet care, and they have a tip for everyone getting ready to shop for birthdays, Christmas, and any occasion. It’s one word: KITS.
“The easiest gifts come in kits,” promised the proprietress. “The kits generally include almost everything you need at a discounted price. Also gift certificates are always great, because you may not know what color or size of collar they want, or what kind of creature they’re allowed to have. With a gift certificate, they can come in to pick up exactly what they need.”
Gift certificates from Steve’s pet shop are not an uncommon sight in the foothills, since the family often donates critters to fairs and festivals in the form of paper certificates. Two local kids were in the shop picking out their winnings from the recent festival.
“We always donate fish or coupons whenever schools, churches or other organizations hold fundraisers,” said Steve. “The coupons are for one free goldfish for the winner, plus 10 percent off supplies. The coupons allow for the fish to be less stressed from the transportation to and from the game. The winners just come in afterwards and pick up the fish they want.”
In addition to their activities promoting and running the store, Steve’s Tropical Fish and Pet Supply is also a member of the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce, and Kristin is an Oakhurst Mountain Lions club member.
Next year, the couple hopes to work with the Eastern Madera County (EMC) SPCA and other local rescue organizations to have adoption days for dogs and cats. With all the great activities and the nearly endless possibilities for excitement offered by the Oakhurst pet store, the owners at Steve’s are a bit hard-pressed to say what the most enjoyable aspect of the business would be. When pressured, however, they came up with something pretty cool.
“The best part would have to be the animals,” say the Batemans. “We get to play with all this fun stuff all day!” The Batemens invite the community to come into Steve’s during store hours and join them.
Steve’s is located at 40761 Highway 41 Suite 7 in Oakhurst