HOULTON, Maine — As the owner of the only pet store north of Bangor, Katie Sloat knows she has a large customer base to serve.
Sloat’s parents Jean and Richard Sloat operated Jean’s Serendipity for decades, before deciding to shift their focus to a growing wine business.
Faced with the idea that her family’s legacy could be coming to an end, Katie Sloat said she knew what she had to do.
“I knew the town didn’t want [the business] to leave,” she said. “My parents were going to close the store unless I took over and I didn’t want that to happen.”
Since taking over in January 2020 and renaming it Serendipitous Dragonfly, Sloat has seen her family’s downtown business steadily grow into what is now one of Aroostook’s destination locations for shoppers of both pets and gifts.
“We try to have a little bit of everything,” she said. “We have people from northern Maine that come down every week for fish. We are widely known as ‘the fish store.’”
The shop includes a lizard room, featuring geckos and bearded dragons, as well as a Russian tortoise; a bird room that includes finches, parakeets, cockatiels and canaries; and a fish room, complete with both fresh and saltwater fish. Sloat also has a small selection of guinea pigs that are bred in the store.
“People love to come in when we have babies to see them grow,” she said. “We always help people decide on if a pet is right for them.”
A former fish pond has been transformed into a playpen for the rabbits Sloat breeds, while a large tank that sprang a leak has been turned into a Christmas village for the holiday season.
Another corner of the store has become “Santa’s Workshop,” where area children can come visit with St. Nick and have a photo taken.
Taking on the family business was not something Sloat had planned on. At the time, she was managing the kitchen and bath department at S.W. Collins. She helped customers by designing renovations, which is what she went to school to learn.
“I gave that up because I really didn’t want to see this close,” she said. “I grew up helping my mom in this store.”
Beyond its niche as a pet store, Serendipitous Dragonfly also has a large selection of children’s toys, books and apparel.
As part of the takeover, Sloat said she wanted to make the business more “kid friendly,” moving all of the toys to the front of the store so that they are the first thing children see upon entering.
“My focus for the store is really on exploring and discovering, so we have a lot of hands-on toys,” she said.