He’s seen it all in his 45 years from escaped snakes to Ninja Turtle mania - now pet shop owner Brian Meek has cleaned out cages for the final time.
The 78-year-old has one of the longest-running pet shops in the city and has been a familiar, friendly face on St Luke’s Terrace, Pallion, for more than 40 years.
Over the decades he has sold thousands of birds, reptiles, guinea pigs and more which have become beloved pets - and yesterday the community rallied round to bid him farewell as he hands the keys over to a new owner.
A surprise party was held at All Pets of Pallion to celebrate Brian’s 45 years in the pet trade.
Brian, who lives in Tunstall with wife Pat, 76, has seen many trends come and go over the years, including a boost in reptile sales due to films such as Jurassic Park and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but says his passion for pets has never changed.
“I’ve always loved pets and I’ve made that many friends through the pet trade that I think of them more as friends, than customers. People who came here as children now come in with their children. One customer who lives in the East Midlands now was working in Newcastle and popped in to say goodbye when he heard I was retiring, which I was really touched by.”
As well as changes in people’s pet preferences, Brian has witnessed the changing face of Pallion’s high street.
“My first pet shop was Wearside Aquatics which I opened in Grangetown in 1975, then I opened this shop in Pallion a few years later,” he recalls. “Back then St Luke’s Terrace was known as the Golden Mile because you could get everything you needed here. Back then there was lots of engineering companies around and the workers would come in during their lunch. I would take more money in that hour than I would all day.
“Nowadays there’s a lot of take away shops here, but the customers are still so friendly. Sometimes they don’t come in to buy pets they just want some advice, but I’m always happy to help them.”
One of the more dramatic moments of his career was receiving a phone call from the police at 1am when a rat snake was spotted slithering underneath the shutters.
Brian said: “The snake was very dramatic, I had to come out and catch it. I also remember a man from a chain store which had a pet section saying he would put me out of business some years ago, but it never happened.”
The businessman, who is dad to Dianne, 46, and grandad to Olivia, 15, and Isabella, nine, had offers to sell the building over the years for other ventures, but was determined to sell it as a pet shop. The new owner gets the keys this week and will retain the name.
Brian said: “It’s been emotional today, I don’t think I’ll believe it until I lock the door for the final time. But I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family.”
Dianne, who used to work in the shop on Saturdays, said: “We’d just like to say thank you to all the customers over the years for their support.”