Upscale Exotics co-owner Tim Becker recalled that the first thing he bought from his wife Andrea 17 years ago was an African sulcata turtle. It was small enough to fit in the palm of his hand, he said.
That same turtle was on display on June 19 as the couple and their daughters organized the grand opening of their brand new pet store on Route 5 in Sherrill. However, it was considerably taller now, measuring a few feet in diameter. Becker said he will continue to grow tall enough to saddle up and ride 30 years from now, weighing over 500 pounds.
They even made arrangements for the Utica Zoo to adopt him once he left if their daughters don’t want to keep him, as the turtle has a life expectancy of 150 years.
Upscale Exotics specializes in corn snakes while also breeding sand boa, king pythons, Mexican king snakes, turtles and crested geckos. Becker said their business model was created in November 2006 after spending 12 years as a basement reptile breeder. When his daughter was born, he wrote a business plan to open a family pet store, but he had never been there before.
With a new breeding facility, the family began selling at the Corning Reptile Show, which has since grown into REXPO – the Rochester Reptile Expo – one of the East Coast’s largest reptile shows.
As high-end Exotics, they sold their captive-bred reptiles across the country. But in November 2019, they decided to start a business closer to that mission statement 13 years earlier. Their dedication to this family plan led to the definitive opening of their new Upscale Exotics location in Sherrill.
Their motto there is “No Fuzzy Stuff” – just reptiles. And although Andrea says she loves the business now, that commitment to a scaly inventory took some getting used to at first.
“When I met my husband, I wasn’t really the type to like snakes,” she admitted. “But they won me over and now I have a job that I really love to get up for in the morning.”
Their daughters Sydney and Lillian also worked with them at the grand opening. The enthusiasm of the Becker family was evident in their sociable reception of their new clientele and the way they truly enjoyed sharing information about all of their reptilian friends.
“I love the way the owners are so attentive to their customers,” said Jamie Marchese of Ilion. “It’s a very cool concept and everything is reasonably priced. “
They returned to the store the following Monday to bring home one of the snakes encountered at the event, she added.
Upscale Exotics is located at 145 West Seneca St. in Sherrill and is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, and by appointment Saturday and Sunday. For more information call 315-367-5002, visit upscaleexotics.com or find them on Facebook.
There were games and food trucks and even a tour of the KRock radio station deejay Cody Mack, who broadcast his “Animal Encounters” live for a few hours at the opening. He and his assistants offered free KRock stickers and an Enchanted Forest ticket to enhance the fun.
He said he was happy to be there for the first day because it inspired him to keep an eye on the business as it grows.
“It’s a great place and just what this area needed,” complimented Mack. “It’s going to be really great to see where it goes from here – I think this place is going to explode.”