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Appleton pet store aims to be unique

Wild Habitats specializes in reptiles, fish, amphibians and the accessories that go along with them

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October 20, 2022

APPLETON – Reptiles, fish and amphibians, oh my!

Wild Habitats, located at 1350B W. College Ave. in Appleton, opened in mid-August with a focus on the not-as-common pets.
“Things are going well so far,” Choi Schake, one of the store’s co-owners, said. “Everything we’re getting told from our customers is good – they’re excited and can’t wait until we open more of the store. Right now, we’re about half a store running. We hope to be fully operational by the end of November – for the holiday season.”

Schake said opening Wild Habitats is something he and his owner partners – Brady Bartel (the fish and reptile enthusiast of the team who has worked in pet shops for more than a decade) and Yvonne Stapleton-Polack – have talked about for a few years.

“We wanted to bring our strengths together to open a unique pet store,” he said. “We deal with most everything that doesn’t have fur or feathers – no hamsters or rabbits. We have lots of exotics. We’re also offering the enclosures and the products people have with those animals.”

Schake said they want Wild Habitats to be a destination place.

“From what we’re being told, the nearest store similar to what we have is in Madison, and they only deal with reptiles,” he said. “We have 400-gallon ponds where we keep our livestock. It’s a unique setup to view the habitat the animals live in.”

Schake said Wild Habitat’s main goal is to be bioactive.

“Which means a self-sustaining environment,” he said. “We’re after low maintenance and low waste. We’re hoping to have as many as 30 enclosures in the store for people to view.”

Besides animals and enclosures, Schake said they also have other access?ories available.

“We have aquatic plants, live plants, house plants, terrariums and paludariums for amphibians – we hope to set up mini enclosures like that,” he said. “When you walk into some pet stores, you see a tank with gravel on the bottom – we want more than that. Some pet stores have their beta fish in cups, but we have ours in five-and-a-half-gallon tanks with driftwood and rock. It’s a better environment for them, which in turn, makes them healthier and happier.”

Schake said Wild Habitats works with a handful of wholesalers.

“We use some wholesalers from Chicago,” he said. “There are also local breeders of some types of animals – there’s a wide variety out there.”

Schake said he, Bartel and Stapleton-Polack all bring different assets to the business.

This Madagascar Swift, an exotic lizard that can be found at Wild Habitats pet store in Appleton, prefers to dwell in trees. Swoonbeam Photography Photo

“I bring the retail experience, Brady has been dealing with many varieties of pets for 20 years and Yvonne is more into the personnel side,” he said. “I’m pretty much a pet enthusiast/hobbyist. We work together well as a team.”

Schake said Wild Habitats has a specific protocol on how it introduces animals to the public.

“I’m not an expert in pet psychology, but most people can tell when an animal is not happy or healthy,” he said. “If they’re not eating, something is wrong. When we get animals from our distributors, we observe them (behind closed doors) for one or two weeks, depending on how they look. By the time the animals get on the floor, we know they are healthy and happy. We’re not going to sell someone an animal that isn’t doing well.”

Wild Habitats is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

More information on Wild Habitats and the pets it has to offer can be found on its Facebook page, by emailing or calling (920) 939-2089.

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