Business partners Nick Crawford and Patric Fournier have one simple desire.
“At the end of the day, we just want to live the dream and be reptile nerds,” Crawford said.
Their dream will be realized with the upcoming opening of Lost Realms Pets, a combination retail store and zoo at Cedar and Nees avenues featuring more than 50 species of reptiles and amphibians.
Fournier is the owner of A Reptile Room on Shaw Avenue in Clovis — and a Clovis High School graduate — and Crawford has frequented his shop since he was 11 years old. Crawford even worked for Fournier for a spell and for various other pet shops and the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.
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“While I was working for him we kind of dreamed this whole thing up,” he said.
The storefront and private collection zoo they penciled out on graph paper nine years ago now stands before them in the building vacated by a Fresh & Easy market. Luckily the grocery store had pre-installed floor drains, which happened to be a perfect fit for Lost Realms Pets’ automatic mister systems
After more than half a year of renovating, the duo hopes to open their doors to the public at the end of the month.
“Worst case scenario, everyone can expect to be in here in April,” Crawford said.
Fournier plans to close A Reptile Room once Lost Realms Pets opens, Crawford said, which was a hard decision.
“He’s owned the business for 17 years,” Crawford said. “He has a long list of satisfied customers and a huge clientele base.”
Those customers are sure to love Lost Realms Pets.
It won’t be your average pet store — it’ll be an experience, Crawford said.
“I want it to be like Disneyland. Everywhere you look, there’s something,” he said. “Lost Realms is not just a name, it’s an idea; you have a destination.”
Much of the 3,000 square-foot retail side is decorated with faux cargo boxes. Plants cover every aisle like a canopy and trees carved out of foam hide every support beam.
Although the bulk of a private collection of animals will be kept on the other side of a turnstile in a 3,700 square-foot zoo, several habitats are spread throughout the retail side, as well, for customers to enjoy.
“We’ll do enrichment activities, like they can watch us feed the animals,” he said.
Lost Realms Pets will stock food and supplies for reptiles — along with the animals themselves — most of which can be ordered online and delivered to your doorstep by 10 a.m. the following day, Crawford said.
“We’ll have more than 220 stock tanks that have animals for sale,” he said. “Everything from $3.50 brown anole to $10,000 Bells phase lace monitor, anything you can think of, we’ll have it — within our legal boundaries.”
Habitats are filled with moss, lichen, ferns and more. Some have a lost temple theme, while another is modeled after The Shire setting in “Lord of the Rings,” complete with a three-tiered waterfall.
Every habitat is flanked by one or two podiums with its animal’s information, such as common name, scientific name and region of origin.
“Then there’s a QR code to scan it and get the full write-up on everything you need to know about the animal,” Crawford said.
For these reptile enthusiasts, education is key.
“I want people to come here for the zoo, for education,” Crawford said. “There will be tour guides, we’ll be doing field trips with schools, retirement homes, private birthday party tours. The biggest thing for us is educating.”
Beyond the shop’s retail space, behind a turnstile and ADA-compliant gate, is a zoo with about 50 habitats housing 52 species.
“We have quality glass on all habitats. We spared no expense. Everything is completely custom,” Crawford said. “It’s the best money could buy so that not only did the animals have exactly what they needed, but everything was build to last.”
Guests will get to view everything from tiny poison dart frogs of every color to electric blue dwarf geckos to crocodile monitors to a 17-foot-long tiger reticulated python.
Admission will cost $4 for children older than 2, $6 for adults and $5 for seniors. Guests can purchase annual memberships to visit as often as they want for $40 (individual) or $70 per family.
Because the collection is privately owned, Lost Realms Pets staff is able to be hands-on with the animals, so don’t be surprised if something long and scaly is walking around wearing a harness and leash.
“That being said, we don’t handle them often,” Crawford said. “We just let them be, and observe and enjoy them.”
Detailed notes will be logged about each species in a paperless system that will allow staff to share observations and findings with people all over the world, Crawford said.
The staff consists of a dozen reptile lovers who each have their own favorite species and are enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge.
“A customer may come in and want a water monitor. They think it’s so cute. But we have to show them that cute thing is going to potentially hit 7 ½ to 8 feet,” Crawford said. “We’ll let them know, here’s what you need for that cute thing … How hot do the basking temperatures need to be? How hot does the ambient temperature need to be? If water is involved, what about the ph levels? What do they eat? How large to they get? Should I get an all-glass terrarium? The customers know that if we give information, they can trust that information because we’ve already done it. You can see it here.”
Beyond the zoo is a 3,200 square feet reserved for a storage warehouse and breeding facility where the owners will breed pets as well as feeders, including crickets, roaches, chicks, quail, mice, rats — “the works,” Crawford said. “We have a ton of space and we gave it to the animals.”
Although still on the verge of opening, Lost Realms Pets owners are already looking beyond the Fresno store.
“This is our first location of several. We are already looking at other cities, plotting location,” Crawford said. “I’ve dreamt about this almost my entire life.”
Lost Realms Pets
8059 N. Cedar Ave., Fresno