Fin and Gill Aquatic Supplies was granted a final-hour stay of execution Friday.
Yukon Electrical planned to pull the Riverdale pet store’s power that day after its owners fell a month behind in their electrical bill.
It was bad news for the store’s stock of reptiles and exotic fish. Without power for heat lamps and aquarium filters, they’d die.
But, following angry phone calls to Yukon Electrical prompted by a Yukon News article about the pet store’s plight, the utility had a change of heart.
“Now they say they’re willing to work with me,” said owner Alex Gresl. “It worked.”
He and his wife, Gail, took over the business in late September. Gresl has since had cash-flow problems. And he fell ill.
The result: he hasn’t paid his power bills. He owed Yukon Electrical $3,500—largely because of a $2,700 deposit he’s never been able to afford.
But Gresl’s luck changed after Wednesday of last week. First, a rush of concerned customers brought about a windfall of cash, allowing him to put down another $1,000 on his debt owed to the utility.
Second, Yukon Electrical agreed to a payment plan that would see Gresl’s debt slowly paid off. His power bill is typically $850. He plans to pay $1,000 each month.
“The power’s still on,” said Gresl. “The animals are still alive.”
Publicity also helped Gresl sell one of his store’s stars. George is a three-year old iguana who was taken in by the store eight weeks ago from abusive owners.
His tail had been cut off. So had his left toes and some spikes on his back.
George’s tail has since regrown. But iguanas can’t grow new toes and spikes.
The day Gresl took in George, “he pooped out a beer cap,” Gresl earlier recalled.
The reptile’s health has since rebounded. His skin has brightened from a dark grey to light green. His behaviour has swung from being “very aggressive” to being “like a big puppy.”
And now he has a new home.
A young couple came to see George shortly after reading about him last week.
“It was love at first sight,” said Gresl. “You could see the excitement in their eyes.”
While Gresl explained George’s diet (salad greens and fruit, but no citrus) he noticed the woman was carefully taking notes. Iguanas can be finicky animals, so this attention to detail was a promising sign that George was bound for a good home.
Another couple came in and bought an aquarium, fish and a turtle.
Later, they confided “they didn’t really want a turtle,” said Gresl. “But they wanted to help us out. It was very heartfelt.”
Another family offered to shelter as many fish and reptiles as needed in his home, if the power was cut off.
And an accountant came in and offered to give hell to ATCO, the Alberta-based company that owns Yukon Electric.
“A lot of people were just flabbergasted by my circumstances,” said Gresl. “There’s still a strong sense of community and people are willing to help their fellow man in need.”
His goal is to place the pets in good homes and, eventually, convert the business into a convenience store and laundromat. But that plan depends on Gail, who is a member of Fort Simpson’s Liidlii Kue First Nation, receiving a grant from her First Nation.
However, the new store would still carry pet supplies for its existing clients, said Gresl.
In the meantime, the store has plenty of pets for sale, including several geckos and a water dragon.
It’s open from Tuesday to Saturday, 1 to 7 p.m.
“We’ve got a lot of beautiful pets looking for a good home,” said Gresl.
Contact John Thompson at