When you enter Fins and Tails Pet Shop, the first thing you hear is a loud chirping of birds. You will also see several aquariums with tropical fish and a glass case containing vivacious lop-eared bunnies.
And if you look carefully, you will discover, in a corner, a three-and-a-half-foot iguana named Hercules.
“He’s the highlight of the shop,” said owner Cindy Vigil. “Sweet, friendly and extremely curious. Everybody loves him, particularly the children.”
An active businesswoman
Vigil is originally from Colorado. She has lived in Taos for over twenty-five years and managed several businesses here.
She first owned a cleaning business and later opened a thrift store called The Bargain Box, where she sold clothes and household items.
Three years ago she launched Needful Things Pet Supplies. It was in business only for a short time due to electrical problems in the building where the shop was located. The store reopened as Fins and Tails in October 2013.
“I have always loved animals,” Vigil said. “I liked playing with many of them when I was a little girl, so it was natural for me to finally own a pet store. And the fact was that, until I opened this one, there were no other live pet stores in Taos, not even places to buy fish. People had to travel to Santa Fe to get them and sometimes the fish died on the way up here.”
Vigil closed The Bargain Box a month after opening Fins and Tails because it was too difficult for her to keep both businesses running at the same time.
“I couldn’t find reliable help either,” she said. “I had to choose, and the animals won.”
She is now the only employee at Fins and Tails, which she runs with the help of her grandchildren and her sister.
“I love being here,” she said. “The best part of my job is coming to the shop every morning and being greeted by all the critters. They always seem so happy to see me, especially Hercules. The only problem is that he loves to escape and I have to chase him around the store.”
Field trips for the local schools
Fins and Tails offers free field trips to local students.
Vigil has received visits from Llano Quemado and Questa Head Start programs and is always willing to welcome more children from the community.
“We take the animals out one by one and give the kids a chance to pet them and ask questions,” she said. “It’s fun and very educational at the same time.”
Fins and Tails sells hamsters, ferrets and reptiles.
“This is the only place in Taos where people can buy an iguana or a snake,” Vigil said.
There are several kinds of small birds like parakeets and cockatiels. Upon request, Vigil can order canaries and larger birds.
She carries tropical fish like oscars and pond fish like koi, goldfish and ornamental koi as well as fish food—flakes and pellets for koi, goldfish and even turtles.
“We also carry mice, rats, crickets, worms, and meal worms,” Vigil said. “If we don’t have what people are looking for, I am more than happy to order it.”
Collars and little chew toys for cats and dogs are available. Vigil may start ordering cat and dog food soon.
“I also sell habitats,” Vigil said. “I provide cages for birds, hamsters and ferrets, and aquariums for tropical fish. I can order them up to 135 gallons.”
A special kind of merchandise
The way Vigil deals with her current stock is quite different from what she used to do in her previous stores.
“In this kind of business, you bond with the animals,” Vigil said. “With all of them, because that’s the best way of giving them the care and attention they need. But then it is hard to see them go.”
Many of her clients come back often to purchase food and supplies for the pets they have bought, or to buy another animal of the same kind so the first one has a companion.
“It’s always good to know that they are well taken care of,” Vigil said.
Though she doesn’t offer grooming services, Vigil says that groomers can leave their cards at the store and she will make sure that her clients see them.
She does clipping of birds’ wings and beaks.
“I also help people with their ponds,” she said. “I help them set a pond up. I can install a pump and give them advice on how to get rid of algae and keep the pond clean.”
Due to health issues, Vigil has put the store up for sale.
“My hope is to find an interested buyer who loves animals as much as I do,” she said.
Fins and Tails is located at 1350 Paseo Del Pueblo Sur, Taos, NM 87571-5962