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THEE FISH BOWL: Animal Crackers
by Sukie de la Croix

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Interesting facts from fun website

Did you know?

On Sunday in Massachusetts between 5 a.m. and 12 p.m. it is illegal to feed ducks while humming.

Armadillos can walk under water.

Pigs will eat any Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor but for one, Mint Oreo.

Thee Fish Bowl and sister store, Wilmette Pet, is a family-run business, and like all GLBT's, Barb Herman's family is extended. It includes Maryann, her partner, Dave Cozzolino, her best friend, two recently adopted sons, and all the staff and animals in the two stores.

Herman was born in Texas, moving to Chicago when she was two. She opened Thee Fish Bowl 26 years ago. "I never really had animals as a child," said Herman. "We lived in a building where there was no pets at all, and my dad was a janitor, so I couldn't get away with it. But I've been in love with animals all my life, and I went nuts when I got out of the house. The first pet I had was my guinea pig called Queenie."

Prior to owning the store, Herman was a graphics and packaging designer; then she got a call from her parents. "They bought this store and it was a little tiny pet shop, just selling fish, and they thought that when they retired it would be something for them to do. After about a month they called me, they weren't quite sure what to do, and I said, 'Well, I'll come and help you but I'm not going to come and work for you.' So I took a leave from my other job, came here and got it all straightened out.

"It was wonderful and I loved it, and I thought, 'This is what I want to do,' so I said to my parents, 'You're not going to be able to do this, so sell it to me.' You know how parents are, it was like a dollar a week for the rest of your life type of thing. That was 26 years ago and now the store is double the size."

After buying the store, Herman branched out into pet supplies. "Then we bought the store in Wilmette and then we doubled the size of that store. Then we had a third even bigger store in Waukegan for about six years, but it was too much, we were working and working and working. Maryann, David and myself run the stores, and we would wave to each other on the road. So we sat down and decided that's not what we wanted. We wanted more balance, so we sold the Waukegan store about three or four years ago."

Herman met Maryann when she was the manager of Thee Fish Bowl, but it was several years before they got together. David, the third part of the trio, is their best friend. "Dave has been around forever," laughed Herman. "I've known him for 15, 20 years. When I first met David he was the grand chef at the Ritz Carlton Cafe. He said he wanted to open a restaurant, so I said, 'Come and open my second store and after a couple of years, if it's doing well, we'll open a restaurant.' So we did that. We looked at a restaurant and got it almost ready to open and then he said, 'You know, it's not really what I want to do, I love the pets.' So we sold it off and went back to pets."

Prior to running the pet store, Herman studied bacteriology and did volunteer work at the Shedd Aquarium. So she was well-prepared for when she took over her parent's fish store. The business has grown and grown over the years: dog food, dog toys, dog collars ... you name it. Also puppies. "We do quite a lot with shelters, and we work with Adopt-A-Pet," continued Harman. "I often tell people not to buy a dog in a pet shop. We're the exception to the pet shop rule, and I love to be the exception. We deal with very reputable people, individual private breeders in the area, and we check them out too. All pet shops could do what we do, but it's a lot of hard work and we don't take short cuts, we take it seriously.

"We also do exotics, mostly captive bred. In the Wilmette store we have a breeding program for rare exotics and reptiles, and we have a huge breeding room and incubators downstairs."

Interesting facts about reptiles from

Turtles can recognize faces and can do tricks.

There has actually been documented cases of frog showers during heavy summer rainstorms. Fish have also been reported to rain from the sky.

A gathering of frogs is called an army.

The latest addition to the family are two beautiful boys. "Maryann and I adopted them about two months ago. Two brothers," said Herman. "It's something I'd always wanted to do and it was something she always wanted to do. We've been together for 12 years and worked out all our stuff, and now we felt the balance was right."

For more info visit the website or contact Thee Fish Bowl at 600 Dempster, Evanston, IL ( 847-475-6500 ) or Wilmette Pet, 625 Green Bay, Wilmette, IL ( 847-251-6750 ) .

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