Elmwood pet shop shutters after 37 years


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It is the ending of the age of aquariums.

Ken Currie, 68, is retiring after nearly four decades of owning and operating Kildonan Pets in Elmwood. The store is slated to close for good at the end of July.

Ken Currie, the owner and shopkeeper of Kildonan Pets (301 Bowman Ave.), is retiring after decades of finding success in selling freshwater fish and fish accessories.

“It’s time to move on … to be with my family more,” Currie said. “People have been very nice coming in and telling me how much they’ve enjoyed the store and the service.”

The 68-year-old doesn’t believe the Kildonan Pets experience exists anywhere else.

“It’s kind of the end of an era for this business,” Currie said, of the mom-and-pop aquatics store. Currie has run Kildonan Pets alone or with the help of a tight-knit part-time crew since its inception 37 years ago. “The big box stores had a huge impact on a lot of the stores. It didn’t on me, but the business is definitely changing.”

When asked why his business has stayed afloat when many others have sunk, Currie said, with a grin across his face, “I suspect I know what I’m doing. I’ve got, without a doubt, the healthiest fish in the city. One of the best selections, if not the best selection … And our prices have always been reasonable.”

The store has drawn clients not only from around Winnipeg but from as far away as Ontario and Saskatchewan, Currie said. He’s seen three generations of fish enthusiasts come through his doors.

“I’ve met lots of really, really nice people that have remained good customers. And some of them have turned into friends,” Currie said.

Kildonan Pets began as a job creation project for Currie, he said. He was fascinated by pets.

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 considered, the Bowman Avenue building has been a pet hub dating back 45 years or more.

“At the beginning, we sold all the rabbits and guinea pigs and hamsters and gerbils and birds and lizards. We sold everything other than cats and dogs,” Currie said.

In time, Currie narrowed his focus to aquatic creatures. Like his customers, Currie’s fish come from afar. Over the years he’s sourced fish — all freshwater, apart from a brief foray into salt water — from Asia, L.A., and Vancouver.

Contrary to popular belief, Currie doesn’t live — and never has lived — in the suite attached to the store. Though he does live in the nearby neighbourhood of East Kildonan.

Plucking a few standout memories from Currie’s lifelong career is as easy as catching a lone tetra in a 100-gallon tank with a teaspoon. But one that has tickled Currie’s mind for years is that of an errant lungfish. The slender creature, which looks like a mix between a catfish and an eel, found its way out of a tank.

“He was dried up 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’m going to throw him back in the tank and see what happens. Sure enough, a couple of days later he was fine.”

Though Currie’s professional life has revolved around fish for nearly four decades, he has decided to put some space in between himself and marine life.

“Generally, if somebody is a fish person, they’re stuck for life, so I would imagine at some point I will get a tank at home or something,” Currie said, “but right now, no, I will definitely take a break.”

At press time, Kildonan Pets was set to dim its neon sign one last time on July 23. Currie has liquidated the majority of his roughly $200,000 worth of inventory. The building’s main floor is now leased to a shop that specializes in model trains.

Katlyn Streilein

Katlyn Streilein
Community Journalist

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 katlyn.streilein@canstarnews.com

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