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Couple intertwine pet store, dive shop

Two worlds meet at Fancy's Pets, which has an impressive array of pets and pet supplies, plus a range of equipment for diving enthusiasts.

By BILL VARIAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 14, 2001


CRYSTAL RIVER -- At Fancy's Pets, you can buy fish for the aquarium or the gear to swim with them in open water.

Fancy and Steve Taylor purchased the old Mad Dawg's Hawgs storefront on U.S. 19 in downtown and opened their combined pet store and dive shop in October.

Mrs. Taylor had operated Fancy's Pets in the shopping plaza that includes the Kash n' Karry store in Crystal River. She purchased the former Regal Pets store about 10 years ago after working there as an employee.

She and her husband had been looking for a bigger place that was perhaps more visible, though they had enjoyed the spinoff business from shoppers at other stores in the strip mall.

When the Mad Dawg's building became available from the federal government, which had seized the property from its former owners, they jumped.

They're happy with the move. Business has been up 30 to 40 percent, Steve Taylor said.

"It's like they say: location, location, location," Mrs. Taylor said. "It's a good feeling having your parking lot full."

Steve Taylor, who also is an engineer for Florida Power Corp., had operated his own business nearby, a dive shop next to the Chamber of Commerce building in Crystal River. With the extra space of his wife's new store, he took over the former motorcycle parts area of the store, relocating his dive shop.

While it may sound like an odd melding, Taylor says it works.

"When you think of the fish, you can kind of tie them together," Steve Taylor said. "A lot of the people who are into swimming with manatees are the outdoors, naturey type people who like animals."

With a manatee mural already painted on the side of the building, it seemed like destiny, added Mrs. Taylor.

In addition to freshwater and saltwater fish, Fancy's sells an array of birds, dogs and sometimes cats, lizards, snakes and spiders. They also sell the cages and aquariums, as well as food and other equipment to keep them healthy and happy -- including feeder crickets and mice for the snakes and lizards.

The larger store enables the couple to section off animals and supplies by group.

That's important, Steve Taylor said. The birds have their own room to keep down on dust throughout the store.

Plus, there's a wide variety of pet lovers. Bird people don't necessarily like snakes and lizards, which are in the rear of the store, he said.

Additionally, Fancy's provides grooming and boarding for pets.

Steve Taylor's portion of the business offers a gamut of services for diving enthusiasts, such as equipment sales and rental, manatee tours and diving certification.

The couple says Crystal River is a good place to have a pet store, even as large retailers set up shop. While it may be a while before Petsmart checks out Citrus County, Fancy's faces competition for food and other pet supplies from large discounters, supermarkets and other pet stores.

The Taylors say their prices are competitive with the big boys. More importantly, though, they say they distinguish themselves with personalized, knowledgeable and friendly service.

"A lot of people come in here and they want to talk to Fancy," said her husband.

"We can be on a first-name basis with our customers," Mrs. Taylor said. "Sometimes we know the pets' names better than our customers."

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