Meet Your Merchant: Hope, hard work bring pet store success |

Meet Your Merchant: Hope, hard work bring pet store success

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Jan Rispin said her longtime Carson City business started off with just a couple of things: “An unemployment check and a lot of hopes and hard work.”

Rispin lost her job at a local casino in the 1960s. With a small investment in some fish, two parakeets, a canary and three hamsters – and a discounted deal on her storefront – Rispin started Jan’s Tropics in 1965 with her 3-year-old daughter in tow.

“If we sold something, we would go down and get two more,” Rispin said. “We just kept building and building.”

Over the years she moved into larger stores, purchasing her current location on Corbett Street in 1972.

Today, her daughter, Suzanne Huttman, still works at the store, running the dog grooming service, the Elegant Pooch.

The pet shop offers mostly fresh- and salt-water fish, including her favorite, the arowana. The shop has about 140 aquariums filled with fish, more than 30 different reptiles plus a few koi ponds and birds.

She said the most popular pets on the market today are tropical fish, especially as families cut back on budgets. Cheaper pets tend to do well in the downturns, she said.

The Roop Street closure has affected business, and some employees are down to part time right now, but she’s confident things will turn around once the construction ends.

There have been other challenges.

At one point the power went out at the business, requiring one friend to bring in a pump and garden hoses to keep the fish alive.

When she first started her business, Rispin would start her day at 8 a.m. and work until midnight, seven days a week, “without fail.”

Today, she’s down to 10 hours a day.

“I’ll keep going until I can’t work anymore, and maybe my grandson will take over,” Rispin said.