This past week, Fish Tails Pet Emporium ran a creative fundraiser to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The unconventional event offered participants the opportunity to name cockroaches after a former romantic partner and subsequently feed them to the store lizard as an act of Valentine’s Day therapy.
Fish Tails Pet Emporium opened one and a half years ago and is located on College Avenue in downtown Waterville. The store is run by the couple Gene and Jennifer Alley, who sell a variety of pets spanning from birds to hamsters to fish and the necessary pet supplies to accommodate them.
In an interview with Gene about the Valentine’s Day Special, he mentioned that his wife came up with the idea.
The couple had a large amount of hissing cockroaches and a hungry monitor lizard. Jennifer thought it would be a perfect idea to run a Hissing Booth that would deal with the number of insects, support the local Waterville Humane Society, and provide people with an outlet for the depressing side of Valentine’s Day.
“We’re a big supporter of the Humane Society,” Gene Said, explaining the reason they donated the proceeds to the organization. He said that during a promotion meant to attract people to the store, it was important to ensure that the benefits also went to a good cause and supported the local community.
To participate in the Hissing Booth, customers had to buy a cockroach for $6.99. They were then able to hand feed the lizard or, for the more squeamish, have Gene or Jennifer feed him. Then, customers were rewarded with a card, on which they could either write their own name or the name of a former partner on it, “for a little vengeance.”
However, Gene did note that only first names were allowed on the card to avoid getting too personal. The card would then be proudly displayed on the lizard’s habitat.
The star of the show is a Savannah monitor lizard named Brutus. Gene and Jennifer rescued him a little over a year ago and now keep Brutus in their store as their mascot. Gene mentioned that Brutus has been a great addition to Fish Tails Pet Emporium and that the lizard has enjoyed the influx of cockroaches.
“This is the last day we are doing it, but we have sold a lot of roaches!” Gene said regarding the promotion’s success. Brutus’s enclosure is covered with the Valentine’s Day name cards, showing just how popular the Hissing Booth has been. In fact, as of Monday, Gene and Jennifer believed that they had achieved their goal of raising $500 for the Humane Society.
The promotion ended on Feb. 20, and while students cannot directly participate in the fundraiser anymore, they still can support the Waterville Humane Society. The organization always appreciates donations to help the animals.
“The easiest thing to do is to contact the Humane Society directly and see what they’re needing. Sometimes it’s food they need; sometimes it’s litter boxes; sometimes it’s litter,” Gene explained when asked about potential opportunities for Colby students to help out. As for Brutus and Fish Tails Pet Emporium, Gene mentioned that, given the Hissing Booth’s positive feedback, they are planning on running the fundraiser again next year.
So, be sure to be on the lookout for announcements on their Facebook!
~ Adrian Visscher `24
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