by John Stapleton, Contributing Editor
For Ruben Rivera, it has been a lifelong goal to have a place where he could share his knowledge and love for all things that slither, creep and crawl in the shadows. He and his family opened Desert Grown Reptiles March 26.
“I’ve been into bugs and reptiles since I could remember,” Rivera says. “One memory that I will always remember is getting in trouble in kindergarten because I emptied my school box contents into my desk cubby and filled it with ants during recess.
“I was sitting at my desk just watching them eat scraps of my sandwich when my teacher came around and was shocked to see my ‘school box’ terrarium!”
Rivera says his parents never had issues with his fascination, even allowing him to own a few venomous snakes as he grew up in Texas. He kept his interest as a hobby, but as the population of Maricopa and Pinal County grew, Rivera believed he wasn’t alone in wanting a local shop.
His friends who had opened shops in the Phoenix area, and they were doing well.
Rivera knew about reptiles, spiders and bugs, and for business management, his wife Salina had that experience. Rivera left his job of 15 years and went full throttle on opening Desert Grown Reptiles and Exotics just a few minutes south of Maricopa.
“Things are a little scary, but I know taking this risk is what I need to do,” Rivera says. “As far as goals for the shop, we will strive to be one of the best reptile shops in Arizona and provide our customers with outstanding products, service and the help and information to help them keep healthy and happy reptile pets.
“We’re also looking to offer classes for schools, home school groups, scout troops and also do public and private events, presentations and classes.”
The shop is home for a variety of creatures including popular lizards and snakes. It also has food, enclosures and accessories. Rivera also has a national network of friends and breeders who can help in the acquisition of specialty creatures.
“I love how reptiles are being kept in more and more homes,” Rivera says. “Reptiles are great pets as they require less housing and feeding requirements than your typical pet dog or cat. Reptiles are also great options for kids with certain allergies that keep them from keeping your more common pets.”
Rivera says studies show children growing up with pets are less likely to suffer from anxiety.
“It might be a result of special vibes our little friends tend to express, but one thing remains clear, pets can work as an excellent stress reliever.”
Desert Grown Reptiles and Exotics
49237 W. Papago Road, No. 3
Maricopa, AZ 85139
(Closed on Mondays)
Photo by Volo, L-R: Selena, Diego and Ruben Rivera