Thirty years ago a young couple from Concord - he, 22, and she, 19 - ventured into the world of small business without knowing exactly what it would take to make it all work.
"No college degree, no business classes," said Dan Hoffmann, who with his wife, Joyce, has owned in downtown Concord since 1980. "... just a thousand dollars in saved cash, a thousand in loans and a thousand borrowed from dad. That's what it took to get it started."
What began as an idea to take over the lease and business spot of an old and regular pet store at the same 2359 Concord Boulevard location then, with the help of a whole lot of reading material and simposium visits, gradually turned into a successful exotic animals shop over the span of time, said Hoffmann.
Until the Internet came about, that is:
"In the pre-Internet days there were only two reptile stores in this [Mt. Diablo] region," said Hoffmann. "business was good and people would come from Sacramento or Santa Cruz; now Danville is too far," he said.
At the same time, the widespread introduction of chain pet stores that also carry supplies, mice, crickets and other exotic animal feed - the type of stuff Hoffman said pays the bills - business began to take a significant hit and survival skills simply had to kick in.
"The truth is I'm a worrier and got depressed," said Hoffmann, who went as far as starting to clean out the back room and setting a date for store closure. "Had it not been for the landlord helping out with renegotiating the lease, we wouldn't be here [today.]"
In addition, Hoffmann said he and his wife had to spend $30,000 of their own money and credit to make up for losses, eventually having to decrease their staff from two full-time workers and one part-timer to only two, total; one full and one part-time. It's a decision Dan says was difficult to make, but one necessary for the survival of his business.
Though completely canceling the debt is still an effort the Hoffmann's have to go through, Dan said it's well on its way and that the economy seems to be slowly picking back up. Second only to the Hoffmanns' perseverance, economic recovery is perhaps one of the most important factors as to why this local business is still open and alive.
Hoffmann's Shop doesn't just sell snakes, lizards, turtles and other exotic animals. From the supplies needed to keep crawlers and furry friends alive to the custom and specialized cages they live in and the lights needed to keep them warm, Hoffmann's is a one-stop-shop.
If you've never checked out the store, make sure to stop by next time you take a stroll around downtown. One minute you're in downtown Concord, the next you're inside a zoo-like room full of snakes, geckos, lizards, turtles, mice, frogs and many other exotic animals you'd probably only get to see if you paid for admitance at, well, a zoo.
Tell us in the comments: Have you ever been to Hoffmann's? What do you think of this unusual local business?