Patrick Flaningan’s love for animals started early.
“I had been raising fish since I was about seven and a half,” Patrick said. “I was an early member of the Cleveland Aquarium Society at the time.”
He thinks he was the youngest there, but it was a welcoming community nonetheless.
“They were a bit fascinated by my fascination with fish,” he said.
Patrick and his wife, Danita, own Hutch Pet Shop. On September 15, they will close the pet store in Kent that has been selling customers their animal companions for so long.
They have a number of close-to-store sales, including a full price buy, get one for a penny on tropical fish. Some of the display aquariums are also available at a great discount.
They initially ran the business in a building at 149 S. Water St. for nine months before acquiring the storefront at 103 Lake St. where they are currently located. The Flaningans celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary next February, and Patrick says it’s time for them to move on to the next phase of their lives. They have travel plans to start their retirement.
“We’re going to a west coast wedding,” Patrick said. “It will be in later seasons, just on the edge of winter.”
Providing pets to people for half a century has been wonderful, according to Danita. It’s a sentiment that her husband shares.
“It’s fun to see people come in and pick up kittens,” Danita said.
Patrick said he enjoys introducing children to fish, helping them learn and develop their hobby.
How Hutch’s Kitchen Adoption Program Began
The kittens have been the focus of Hutch’s concerns, which Danita and Patrick appreciate.
As Patrick recalls, 28 or 29 years ago they began working with Graham Road Animal Hospital to facilitate a kitten adoption program. He and Danita were out shopping in Cleveland when Danita spotted a kitten chasing a dump truck down a driveway. Patrick knew that the little animal would not last long on its own.
“So she got out of the car and grabbed her, took her down and put her in our store for adoption,” Patrick said.
Just past reception are a number of cages with kittens inside. A small white kitten clung to its cage, using the grating to climb up the enclosure, intent on escaping. They are the latest group Hutch will adopt into loving homes, and almost all of them are already booked.
The past 50 years have been difficult at times, Patrick said, mixing heartache with joy. Sometimes, though it’s no one’s fault, an animal just isn’t meant to live very long.
“The dice are rolled before you even get the animal,” Patrick said.
The flip side is that he and Danita hear stories from customers about how they love and appreciate their pets.
What happens to the Hutch Pet Shop location in Kent?
Although Hutch Pet Shop is closing, the building will be redeveloped and the Flaningans will retain ownership. Patrick, who has a passion for watercolor painting, said he will offer classes for those who want to learn the art.
“I will probably also teach young people,” Patrick said. He does not yet know what the exact format or program will be, but his services are sought.
“I know several parents have spoken to me,” he said. “The other night, she says, my daughter is 13 and she really wants to learn to paint in watercolor.”
When the new business starts, however, depends on what they can do with the space. He and Danita are still cleaning up the store, taking away the last remnants of a 50-year career.
Along with missing the kittens they care for so often, Danita said she will miss some of their longtime clients.
“We see people who came as children coming as grandparents with their grandparents,” Danita said. “A lot of kids who went to school here stop by from time to time.”
The Flaningans both lament the shortage of small pet stores in the neighborhood. Big-box pet stores, Danita said, often don’t have the kind of knowledge she and her husband have accumulated. Patrick said he hopes his regulars can find someone to fill the void left by his store closing.
“We have special people to whom I gave my [business card] but the main number will eventually get cut,” he said.
There is a story that Patrick tells that demonstrates his customer’s affection for Hutch Pet Shop.
A couple bought her a kitten while they were going to school at Kent State. Eventually, they graduated, got married, and moved to Columbus. Their cat, Patrick said, lived a long life – 17 years – with them but sadly passed away.
“They came into the store and said, ‘Well, we’re going to have a new kitten,'” Patrick said. “I said, ‘They don’t have any in Columbus?’ And his quote was, ‘They have cats in Columbus we are looking for a kitten.'”
Contact journalist Derek Kreider at [email protected]