Waco’s reptile store finds growing success
Shaun Jones sells reptiles in Waco, having moved here from Washington, DC No jokes, please, about politicians and snake oil salesmen.
Jones owns an increasingly popular location at 2009 Franklin Ave. called Yox2 Reptiles Store. Potential customers should avoid blinking while driving. The sign on the door is quite small and Jones shares parking with the neighboring business. But Yox2 generates a buzz, or hiss.
Creatures are on display in display cases including the African fat-tailed gecko, a Mexican black king snake, green tree frogs, pixie frogs, a bearded dragon, a California king snake, a Texas brown tarantula, a tree-eating tarantula burgundy goliath birds, an albino leopard gecko, a black and white argentinian tegu and several turtles. Prices appear prominently, both wholesale and retail. The albino gecko, for example, fetches $50, the bearded dragon $150, and the Mexican king snake $250.
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Jones said he secures inventory from a variety of sources, including local breeders and online vendors. He buys wholesale and sells retail, constantly researching prevailing rates and market trends. He sells some products on consignment, which makes display space available for a percentage.
“I thought I would make something available that Waco didn’t have,” said Jones, who arrived about two years ago. He grew up and attended school in Washington, D.C. and Maryland, delivered packages for FedEx, and then began seeking career opportunities and lowering the cost of living elsewhere. He introduced his own clothing line of Yox2-branded shorts and shirts, but focused on exotic animals after moving to Waco. He still applies his design skills by producing branded clothing for his employees.
“When I got here, I didn’t have anything you see now,” Jones said.
He built the waiting areas and display cases his critters now occupy in what years ago was a photography studio. He keeps his personal collection in another area that customers can visit if they show impressive interest.
His pets include Nigel, a caiman; a snapping turtle named Bowser; Spiro, a frilled lizard; Koba, a black-throated monitor lizard; Boo Baby, a red iguana; Milo, a river cooter; Thor and Nessie, black and white Argentine tegu lizards; and Knuckles, a red tegu.
“People try to take them from me. They want to buy them,” Jones said with a smile. “I tell them there’s a reason I’m keeping them here.”
He said he relies heavily on social media to promote his store. He also visited the Waco Downtown Farmers Market a few Saturday mornings, cold-blooded props in tow, to charm attendees. On Saturday afternoons, he hosts shows in his shop that young people usually attend with their parents for $5 per person. The shows promote education and interaction.
He often provides animal snacks to youngsters entering the store, allowing them to safely interact with reptiles ready to accept alms. These snack foods do not include frozen and live mice regularly delivered to the store.
As business increases, Jones said he felt cramped. He hopes to open one or two satellite sites in the suburbs, where he will display and sell reptiles. Sales would continue on Franklin Avenue, but the site would also serve as his headquarters. Reptile breeding is conducted there, Jones said. He also sells reptile food and bedding and has created a coloring book for children.
Selling both native and foreign animals, Jones said he had to obtain multiple permits. But he is convinced he made the right business decision. He said some customers became friends who enjoyed hanging out at the store, swapping stories about the collection and checking out new arrivals.
Dylan Bapp, a trucker from Dawson whose routes take him east to Florida and west to New Mexico, said the snakes petrified him until he drove past the store. Jones and familiarizes himself with the inventory.
“I fell in love with them,” Bapp said.
So far, he’s shelled out for an albino California king snake, a bearded dragon lizard and a tiny ball python.
Leighton Tindell visited the store last weekend with his girlfriend, and they made themselves at home. He said he never imagined himself a reptile lover, but now hangs them like baseball trading cards. His shopping list includes turtles, tortoises, a bearded dragon and a royal python.
Jones said her clientele comes from all ages and walks of life. He said some enthusiasts lost interest during the COVID-19 pandemic, but are now coming home and enjoying what his shop has to offer. He believes young people appreciate his dedication to social media and his constant updates.
He said other small pet shops had apparently fallen by the wayside, leaving the field open for anyone wanting to make an impact.
Pet Supplies Plus, 203 Hewitt Drive, also sells reptiles. Supervisor Rachel Parker said Saturday the store had snakes, tree frogs, a bearded dragon and a Russian tortoise, among other specimens. She said the store regularly tries to diversify its product line. Besides reptiles, the inventory includes hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, parakeets, scorpions and tarantulas.
Parker said Pet Supplies Plus and Yox2 have a friendly relationship. She said Jones and his team “seem to be good guys” and are customers at times.