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Old 06-01-2012, 06:47 PM
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Default How does a herpetological trip to Africa sound with herpetologist Kevin Stevens?!!

Coast to Coast Exotics is celebrating its 20th year next year (2013), a real rarity in the reptile world – a specialist reptile shop that has stood the test of time and traded successfully for so many years – only one of a handful in the UK. Two decades, how time flies!

We are now planning our celebrations for next year in 2013. Much is planned with some really big surprises that will excite many people in the reptile keeping world. Although we have had ideas and plans in motion for some time now, I’m posting this to see if there is anything in particular that you, our customers (the most important person to us) would like to see Coast to Coast provide in 2013 in our planned schedule of events. PM me with any suggestions you may have, I’d be very grateful!

Plans already in hand include expeditions to Africa for a lucky person - a trip with herpetologist Kevin Stevens into the depths of Africa taking in some fieldwork, and visiting snake facilities. A trip of a lifetime. More details will follow. It will be an exciting year, building up to a great Xmas for 2013 – the exact anniversary is the 28th of December!

I’m planning a more in depth history of Coast to Coast Exotics, but for those that are interested it goes something like this;

I’ve always been interested in keeping animals – in particular reptiles and amphibians. The first animal of herpetological interest was a newt – the now protected Great Crested Newt. This was around the tender age of around five, in 1973 or thereabouts. Very quickly this progressed to a fascination with all three species of British newt and Common frogs and toads. By the time I was seven (in 1975) I had progressed to “exotics” species – my first was a pair of Italian Wall lizards. My first memorable breeding success was by the age of around ten years old – I managed to breed my Clawed frogs. During my early teens I eventually convinced my Mum to allow me to keep snakes – in those days it was a very different prospect to nowadays whereas thousands of kids keep snakes as pets! My first snakes included Garter and Ribbon snakes. By the time I was in my twenties I had a huge herpetological collection, mainly of snakes and was well known in the hobby as a large scale breeder. In 1991 Coast to Coast Exotics became a business, but still concentrated on breeding reptiles and didn’t become a shop until 1993.

The name Coast to Coast Exotics? Well, as a private breeder I became friendly with Bryan Ballantyne and Malcolm Curruthers, also well known and respected snake breeders at that time (sorry Bryan, I know you still are!!). They both lived in Cumbria, and I lived in County Durham – there is a walk between us called the Coast to Coast Walk. It seemed a fitting name due to the geographical link between the three of us – and Coast to Coast Herpetoculture was born! As time went on I realised my calling, and I became a business, and parted with the slightly awkward sounding part of the name and replaced it with Exotics!

During the nineties the hobby progressed in popularity. I remember seeing the first colour morphs in the early 90’s (well, other than Albino Cali Kings and Amel Corns!), from people like Bill Love and the like, through to even seeing the first Albino Common Boas at the Florida Reptile Expo in the early part of the decade. I spent much time abroad, sourcing new supplies and contacts and also taking part in fieldwork and studies that have furthered my knowledge far beyond what a “keeper” can achieve. I spent time writing articles for journals and magazines, working with TV and film productions and even found the time to be Journal Editor for the International Herpetological Society and I’m proud to have been voted as President for the same Society. All of this had a great positive impact on my business, as well as being around and trading during the massive growth years of reptile keeping – the likes of which we will probably not see again. Keeping reptiles and amphibians has now evolved into a mainstream hobby much the same as fish keeping. Obviously this has been helped along by TV shows from the likes of the late Steve Irwin and Mark O’Shea (who also appeared at the shop for a weekend promotion).

Around six or seven years ago my wholesale business was born (Zoo Logic) and we applied the same good basic customer care and service that has made us successful with Coast to Coast. Zoo Logic now supplies shops and other wholesalers nationally and locally with everything from live and frozen food to animals, to reptile related products and everything in-between. I proud to say that our catalogue of reptile products is probably the most comprehensive range of brands / products available to the retailer in the UK today. We currently have in excess of 500 trade customers on our database.

In 1993 there were few specialist reptile shops around, and even fewer that are still with us today – Reptiles Plus is one that springs to mind. So I am justifiably proud that I am one of the select few that have diligently served the reptile keeping community for so long. Over the years we have had many set backs, and many successes – both making us stronger and wiser in the market place today.

Even though this is a massively condensed version of Coast to Coast’s history I cannot leave it without thanks to lots of people – lots and lots. Thank you everyone. I will try to list as many as I can in a more indepth look, but two stand out – for very different reasons. The late Dave Lester from the Serpentarium – thanks for the inspiration of what I wanted Coast to Coast to be. And lastly and importantly the late Kevin Hingley for taking me under his wing as a fledgling snake breeder.

Keep a watch out for more!
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Old 06-01-2012, 08:33 PM
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Oh I throw my hat into the ring for the trip
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Old 07-01-2012, 01:11 PM
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Thanks for the pm's. There seems to be a lot of nostalgic people out there! And a lot of interest to the expedition!

Ive had pm's enquiries. The expedition will be fully announced soon, but it will take in visits to snake farms, including a specialist venom centre set up to help the people in Africa that have to live alongside the venomous snakes out there. The fieldwork will take place shoreline to plains. Any more questions will be likely answered in the further details to be announced, but pm me with further questions.

And thanks for the pm's regarding that quick potted history! I will write something more in depth, which I will offer for publication too. But quickly, to answer the specific questions;

Yes, Nick Nyoka was a massive influence on my earlier keeping experiences. One of the true great animal keepers and showmen. If there was ever a true Dr DoLittle he was it.

Mark O'Shea? Yes I know him from mainly my IHS days and spending a great deal of time in the West Midlands. And yes, I do remember some of the drunken nights out and episodes with the West Midlands and Nottingham crowd - in many ways the birthplace of reptile keeping in the UK.

And, lastly yes, I will go into detail on my history in reptile keeping, including my trips abroad and fieldwork.

Thanks again!
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Old 07-01-2012, 01:12 PM
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Originally Posted by obrowell View Post
Oh I throw my hat into the ring for the trip


Let me know how you get on with those Garters!
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Old 08-01-2012, 12:05 PM
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Thanks for the pm's - it's nice to hear about nostalgia, but I particularly chuckled about the one reminding me that my business is older than the age of the owner of some of our competitors! Yep, in animal keeping you can't beat experience. It scares me at times at over 35 years of reptile keeping, that some of them out there have a tenth of the experience. Scary as it reminds me how old I am nowadays!

Keep the pm's coming!
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Old 09-01-2012, 02:41 PM
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I've had one or two really nice people contact me, saying how much they would like to follow my style of career for themselves

Well, if you decide that running a reptile shop is for you here are some tips;

Choose your location carefully; only a fool would open, say, three miles away from a popular and already established reptile shop. Also make sure its got good parking.

Choose your suppliers carefully, they are as of a similar importance as your customers - and then make sure you keep that relationship sweet. Its amazing how well a supplier will look after you, as long as they are treated well in return.

Make sure you at least double the estimate of costs to set up! you will be amazed how quickly it all mounts up! And dont go over the top with loans, credit can be a wonderful thing, but it can also be your worst enemy. Likewise dont go down the paths of using others money / stock etc - partners, franchises etc etc. Its a special kind of person that can work together, and its quite a rarity!

Dont rush, make sure its a well thought out shop. And then dont rush again - expansion too quick as one of the quickest killers of many a fledgling business - walk before you can run! There is no rush for that chain of shops or empire, put down sound foundations first - if thats the path you decide to take.

And finally, absorb and learn. There are people out there who are worth their weight in gold, if you are willing to listen. Some of the best business advice I was given was from people who had been doing the same kind of business for many year. Experience is everything, dont be that egotistical not to listen!

I plan to put more of my thoughts down before 2013, for those that are interested in reading my ramblings! Thanks again!
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Old 09-01-2012, 02:53 PM
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Congratulations what a fantastic achievement Your thread took me on a lovley trip back down old memory lane I remember your paper based lists and how those were the HIGHLIGHT!!! of my month seeing all those new species and dreaming of if I would ever keep them and thanks to fantastic shops like yours I sure did and 28 years later I'm still around keeping some of those species decendents you may have first imported
Best of luck for the 20th

Paula
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Old 09-01-2012, 06:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Molly75 View Post
Congratulations what a fantastic achievement Your thread took me on a lovley trip back down old memory lane I remember your paper based lists and how those were the HIGHLIGHT!!! of my month seeing all those new species and dreaming of if I would ever keep them and thanks to fantastic shops like yours I sure did and 28 years later I'm still around keeping some of those species decendents you may have first imported
Best of luck for the 20th

Paula


Thanks! It's a great feeling knowing the affect I've had on so many people - and also the hobby in general.

Fantastic days, the like I don't think we will see again. Paper lists? That takes me back! It used to cost a fortune - the good old SAE still didn't cover the costs! Do you remember the adverts I used to place, later on, in the reptile mags? They were a full stock list on the back page! The writing was tiny - but it's amazing how many people still comment on their monthly ritual with a cup of coffee and a magnifying glass! Great times.

Excuse my senility, but your photo looks familiar - did you used to work for Strictly? Or do I know your face from some where else?
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Old 10-01-2012, 11:55 AM
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A had a pm enquiring about my new avatar picture. And yes, with our anniversary promotions due to start soon I thought it best to include a picture of myself doing some work in Africa! I'll post more details soon - but the picture is of me "free handling" at a venomous snake facility in Africa. Dont do this at home folks!
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Old 11-01-2012, 01:37 PM
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Thanks for all the enquiries!
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