Who would have thought when a young Kirkcaldy schoolboy sold pet mice to his classmates not long after the end of the Second World War, it would be the trigger for a lifetime of business that has made him the town’s oldest independent retailer?
But from those humble beginnings for David Galloway, has blossomed The Pet Shop, one of Kirkcaldy High Street’s best-loved outlets, which this weekend celebrates its diamond anniversary.
“Mice made great pets and they were cheap to keep too, especially as we still had rationing back then and many couldn’t afford to feed an animal,” explained David.
He soon added rabbits and guinea pigs to his pet sales as word of his animal expertise and entrepreneurial spirit grew.
Having bred and supplied mice to shops in Edinburgh, David and his wife Helen opened their first shop in Alexander Street in 1956 before moving to 315 High Street a year later.
With an eye for changing trends, coupled with expert knowledge, the business, which David professes to be the first self-service pet shop in the UK, thrived.
In a time when ownership of exotic pets was a whole lot more relaxed, David recalls the day he once advertised the sale of an elephant, as well as one customer who offered to sell him a chimpanzee.
“They were different times, people could buy a monkey, bear, alligator or even a lion cub if they wanted, everything really, but we didn’t go down the road of selling exotic pets for novelty value, most animals we sell are bred locally, not farmed,” David explained.
Over the years the couple have organised everything from pet shows to the first ever charity dog walk and were the first in Britain to sell Christmas pet stockings that Helen made at home, and which have since become a staple of the pet food industry.
The Pet Shop’s crowning glory came in 1990 when it fought off stiff opposition from across the UK to win the prestigious Pet Centre Owner of the Year Award.
Now situated in Kirkcaldy’s historic Sir William Burn designed former bank building at 226 High Street, built in 1833, the business is about to enter its 61st year.
And to celebrate the shop’s diamond anniversary they are rolling back the prices on boxes of Trill and bags of Spillers dog biscuits to the original 1956 price of just a shilling (five pence for younger readers) for this coming Saturday only.
“Whether it’s weird or wonderful ... we’ll find it for our customers”
It’s their eye for detail and the ability to evolve with an ever-changing market that has been the bedrock for 60 years of success.
That’s the view of David and Helen’s son Kenneth Galloway who took over the family business in 2014.
Having spent most of his life in and around animals and the shop – he started as a ‘Saturday boy’ at the age of 13 in 1972 – it was a natural progression as the business continues to thrive 60 years on.
“Customer care is absolute,” he explained.
“If we don’t have what the customer wants, we will get it and if we can’t get it, then it doesn’t exist.”
And Kenneth smiles at the thought of some of the weird, wonderful, and occasionally, downright bizarre things that they have both been asked for and even sold.
“We’ve had perfume for dogs, dog umbrellas, mouse beds and most recently push chairs for dogs, which actually proved a huge success,” Kenneth laughs.
“I thought we may sell one or two, but sold 25 in just a few weeks, even our supplier was amazed, people love them.”
And only this week he has had a customer asking if he could get foaming toothpaste for dogs because her pet doesn’t like having its teeth brushed.
“That’s a new one on me but we’ll do all we can to get it.”
In an ever changing High Street, The Pet Shop remains the one constant. Here’s to the next 60 years!