Biz Beat

Forget snakes on a plane. These snakes and reptiles have their own Modesto store

You hear “den of snakes,” and most people might think it’s a bad thing. But not the folks at Modesto’s new The Serpentarium.

The pet store near Vintage Faire Mall is all about the reptiles that slither, skitter, slink and spring. Opened last December, The Serpentarium is in the stand-alone building that once housed Kenneth’s Fine Menswear. Now instead of suits you’ll walk inside and find snakes and lizards and frogs and turtles and spiders — oh my.

The specialty pet supplier first opened in Lodi and has since expanded to stores in Elk Grove, Roseville and Stockton. The Modesto site, in the same complex as Babies R Us, sells a wide variety of reptiles as well as live and packaged feed, tanks and cages, bedding and other accessories.

And while snakes and spiders may not be the first animals on everyone’s “Awww, cute”-list, they have countless fans who swear they make great pets. It might help that almost all the 36 different kinds of animals and their variations (also called morphs among the reptile crowd) that The Serpentarium sells are juveniles so you can watch them grow up. But with lifespans from about 5 years to well over 65 for some of its larger tortoises, these companions aren’t for the commitment phobic.

“There’s a kind of reptile to fit each kind of person,” said Hawkeye Rivera, reptile specialist at The Serpentarium. “There are ones for night owls and others that are almost like dogs or cats. They have personalities and interact with you when you watch them. They’re just really cool animals.”

The “creepy crawlies” perception of some of its animals is unfounded, said Modesto store employee Nicole Castillo. She said her own pet bearded dragon lizard sits on her shoulder and generally acts like a dog. But they also stock more hands-off pets like scorpions, venomous centipedes and tarantulas.

The Serpentarium does not wild catch its animals, instead breeding some themselves at the Lodi headquarters or buying them from breeders. It also sells the live food most of the reptiles eat, from crickets and mealworms to mice and rats. Hey, it can’t always be as easy as opening a bag of kibble. Though, they do carry some brands of dog food in case you have a both canine and reptile friendly home.

The helpful staff is also happy to share its knowledge and expertise about reptiles with its customers and new pet owners. Its ball pythons, the store’s most popular species of snake, run anywhere from $49 to $349, depending on color pattern and rareness. Bearded dragons, which grow to about two feet in adulthood, run $39 to $100-plus. If you’re looking for something smaller, the store’s Madagascar hissing cockroaches are only $1 each. I know, get one for the whole family.

But all “Snakes, why did it have to be snakes” jokes aside, the store is serious about its scaly friends and it shows. Find The Serpentarium at 3500 Sisk Road, Unit K. Its hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. For more information call 209-622-1191 or visit