In 1965, as Lenna Jean Preuss ushered the denizens of Troutville, Pa., into The Fish Bowl, her vision for the fledgling establishment transcended mere sales of fish. The entrepreneur’s commitment embraced relationship building, while providing patrons with the educational tools required to ensure fish-keeping success. At the time, it’s likely the businesswoman did not foresee how this knowledge and engagement would form a legacy for future generations of the Preuss family.
But perhaps she did.
The Fish Bowl closed its doors several years later, and by the early ’70s, Lenna Jean’s foresight had taken another turn with the opening of Noah’s Ark in Cambridge Springs, Pa. A precursor of things to come, this new enterprise starred a menagerie of critters. An ark replica was placed front and center inside the store. Onboard were birds, reptiles and a wall of fish tanks.
“Cambridge Springs is one of those old village towns, and we lived above the store,” says Rick Preuss, Lenna Jean’s son and co-owner, with wife Debbie, of Preuss Pets in Lansing, Mich. “Living there was really cool, especially with the howling monkeys, toucans, mina birds and all kinds of animals down below making interesting and fun noises. It was an awesome environment for a young kid.”
Life changes saw Noah’s Ark shuttered, and the family relocated to Haslett, Mich., in 1981, where Lenna Jean managed another pet store for a year. But her drive to manifest a vision led to the opening of Preuss Animal House in 1982. At that point, Rick Preuss, in his last year of college, made the decision to join the family business.
“I jumped out of school to help get things up and operational,” he says. “We were definitely underfunded back then—we had a couple of wrought iron stands with a plywood board on them and a box for our cash register. Each day we would sell what we could, run out to a local wholesaler with the cash we had, buy what we could afford, put it on the shelf and go at it again.”
The original store in Haslett was sited in 2,000 square feet, eventually expanding to 4,000 feet before necessitating another relocation in 1995 to a larger space in the same city. In 2006, the business moved to the present store in Old Town Lansing, Mich.
Today, 14,000 square feet of retail space presents saltwater and freshwater fish, pond products and plants, birds, reptiles, small animals and a full line of supplies to support these creatures. An extensive selection of dog …….