It is the end of the age of aquariums.
Ken Currie, owner and trader of Kildonan Pets (301 Bowman Ave.), is retiring after decades of success selling freshwater fish and fish accessories.
“It’s time to move on…to be with my family more,” Currie said. “People have been so nice to come and tell me how much they enjoyed the store and the service.”
The 68-year-old doesn’t believe the Kildonan Pets experience exists anywhere else.
“It’s sort of the end of an era for this company,” Currie said, of the mom-and-pop aquarium store. Currie has run Kildonan Pets alone or with the help of a close-knit part-time team since its inception 37 years ago. “Big box stores have had a huge impact on many stores. It’s not about me, but the business is definitely changing.
When asked why his business stayed afloat when many others sank, Currie replied, with a smile on his face: “I suspect I know what I’m doing. I have, without a doubt, the healthiest fish in town. One of the best selections, if not the best selection… And our prices have always been reasonable.
The store has drawn customers not only from around Winnipeg, but also from as far away as Ontario and Saskatchewan, Currie said. It has seen three generations of fish lovers pass through its doors.
“I’ve met a lot of really, really nice people who have remained great customers. And some of them became friends,” Currie said.
Kildonan Pets started as a job creation project for Currie, he said. He was fascinated by pets.
Even though he wasn’t starting from scratch when he entered the industry. Kildonan Pets was, in fact, a pet store when Currie bought it. All things considered, the building on Bowman Avenue has been a pet center for 45 years or more.
“In the beginning, we were selling all the rabbits and guinea pigs and hamsters and gerbils and birds and lizards. We sold everything except cats and dogs,” Currie said.
Over time, Currie focused on aquatic creatures. Like his customers, Currie’s fish come from afar. Over the years, he sourced fish — all freshwater except for a brief saltwater foray — from Asia, Los Angeles and Vancouver.
Contrary to popular belief, Currie does not live – and never lived – in the store’s adjoining suite. Although he lives in the nearby neighborhood of East Kildonan.
Picking up some defining memories from Currie’s career is as easy as catching a lone tetra in a 100-gallon tank with a teaspoon. But the one that has tickled Currie’s mind for years is that of a wandering lungfish. The slender creature, which looks like a cross between a catfish and an eel, found its way out of a tank.
“He was dried out like a piece of salami on the floor,” Currie said. “But these fish come out of the water and travel from pond to pond, so I thought: I’ll throw it back in the tank and see what happens. Sure enough, a few days later he was fine.
Although Currie’s professional life has revolved around fish for nearly four decades, he decided to put some space between himself and marine life.
“Usually if someone likes fish they’re stuck for life, so I guess at some point I’ll have a tank at home or something,” Currie said, “but for now, no, I’ll definitely take a break.”
As of press time, Kildonan Pets were set to darken their neon sign one last time on July 23. Currie liquidated the majority of his inventory of around $200,000. The ground floor of the building is now rented to a store specializing in model trains.
Katlyn Streilein is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. She can be reached by phone at 204-697-7132 or by email at [email protected]
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