Family pet store closing in Sarasota

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SARASOTA -  One of the few large family owned pets stores in Sarasota is forced to close its doors because of the economy.

"When the economy was good, other people were investing in houses or the stock market, we decided to invest in a pet store instead," says Animal Crackers Pets co-owner Matt Shapiro.

It's a place where for nearly three decades Suncoast residents could buy exotic birds and pets as well as anything else they needed to take care of them.

"We specialized in birds, but we also carry cat and dog and fish stuff and reptiles and hamsters and that type of thing," says Shapiro.

But as popular a place Animal Crackers Pets has been for locals, the rough economy has forced them to close their doors.  "It's pretty difficult for us to pay our bills and keep our employees paid so, we just decided to walk away from the table basically," says Shapiro said.

It's a move that saddens people who have been making trips to the store for years.  "It's like a family atmosphere.  If I had a problem with my dog when I had a dog, they knew exactly how to help me," says Linda Sheets, who has been shopping at the pet store since it opened.

Cole Vining also feels the same.  He has been visiting the pet store since he was a little kid.  "It's really kind of sad because I've been coming here for all my pet needs for, since I started coming here."

The pet store also made headlines after a woman tried to steal a skunk in 2009.  She shoved the animal into her purse and was later arrested when an ABC 7 viewer recognized her from the surveillance video. 

And while many will miss the variety, others simply will miss how store owners went above and beyond the call of duty.

"There was like a recall on the dog food and they gave me letter and I received all my vet bills back and they were  paid for.  So they helped me out a lot, it's like a family here," says Tray Trott.

Now pet store owners are hoping someone will help them, and keep the business open.  "At this point it's an asset sale so if someone shows up and they have the financial backing to be able to purchase the store, it could continue to go on from now," says Shapiro.

The store is having a liquidation sale and could be open for several more weeks or until the merchandise has been sold.