OK, so you might not think of reptiles as exactly cuddly.
But they can still make great pets and they have one key advantage over cats and dogs, said Leslie Boynton, owner of Reptile Food & More in Falcon.
"They're a lot less stinky than furred animals," Boynton said.
Bearded dragons are among the most popular reptile pets and for good reason, she said.
"If someone has an allergy to cats or dogs, bearded dragons are perfect," Boynton said. "They have awesome personalities, they're easy to handle, they like to be out with people."
She has her own bearded dragon at home, along with fat-tailed geckos, gargoyle geckos, snakes, frogs and a tarantula. But Boynton wasn't always so enamored with the cold-blooded creatures. "When I started, I was scared of reptiles," she said.
Before opening her business, Boynton volunteered at - and eventually became a partner in - Furr & Finns, a pet store in the Safeway-anchored shopping center in Falcon. The store had a few reptiles, and Boynton came to the realization that "everybody's got to eat." So when Furr & Finns closed in 2018, Boynton decided to open Reptile Food & More to help fill the void.
With reptiles, she said, "There's not a lot of education, so I like to educate people. I've learned so much. At Petco, you buy something and they don't volunteer information; I want to make sure the reptiles are getting what they need."
The reptile food she sells consists mostly of "bugs and rats."
"The rats I try to breed myself," Boynton said. She gets her dry and frozen food, and the bugs, from suppliers.
"I wasn't a fan of bugs," she said. "When we first started selling roaches, we were there with tongs and picking them up one by one to separate them. But none of the bugs really bite, so it's just getting over the gross factor."
The "and more" part of her business includes accessories for reptile owners such as heat lamps and rocks, tanks and lights. "If there's something I don't have, like a certain kind of food or lighting, I can special order," she said.
And that's not limited to reptiles.
"Even cat and dog stuff, bird stuff, I can order. I have a customer who orders six boxes of hedgehog food every two months. I have a lady who orders her dog food through me."
Her husband, Joshua, is an exterminator. "He kills 'em, I sell 'em," Boynton joked. It's the first time she has had her own business. "It's been an adventure," she said.
And one that has been dispiriting at times; the business suffered four break-ins over a period of just two months or so. The burglars got away with $300 the first time. After that, Boynton made sure not to leave any money in the store, but the thieves just kept coming, ransacking the place each time. "You'd think after the third time of not getting anything, why keep coming back?"
She has been heartened, though, by the support of the community. The store - a shed that she rents from Tire King - now has a security door that was donated. She also had a security system installed and can monitor the store from her phone; she lives "basically right around the corner, she said.
And the public is keeping an eye on things as well.
"I've had people drive by, watching, and they'll call me, 'Hey, there's somebody in your parking lot. Is there supposed to be?'"
She said most of her business is word of mouth, although she is also on Facebook and Instagram and has a high-profile sign along U.S. Highway 24. Her customers, some of whom reach back to the Furr & Finns days, are a varied lot. "Everyone has a picture of what 'reptile people' look like," she said, and that's typically someone with "tattoos and piercings everywhere and different colored hair." But people who love their reptiles, she said, are the same as those who love their furry friends - "just everyday people, like you and me."
For more information, including hours, visit https://www.facebook.com/reptilefoodsandmore.
Leslie Boynton and friend at Reptile Food & More in Falcon. Photo by Bill Radford