Moreno’s adapts to modern pet ownership
A love of animals and their care keeps Leroy Moreno coming to work every morning with a smile on his face. The enthusiasm he has for his business, Moreno’s Feed and Pet Store in Weslaco, is contagious as he talks about his passion for animal husbandry.
One of six children growing up on a farm north of Donna, Moreno remembers his father, Gus Moreno, telling him, “Find something you truly enjoy doing and you will never work a day in your life.”
Gus started Moreno’s Feed and Pet Store in Donna in 1979 and opened a Weslaco store in 1982. The Donna store closed and Leroy became owner in Weslaco, working with his father until his retirement this year at the age of 82. The current Weslaco store was built in 2004 on Business 83.
Moreno’s sells a variety of live animals, feed and other supplies. “We were originally more of a feed store but we’ve always sold animals,” Moreno said. “Dad would buy and sell animals. This is all I know.” Customers are welcome to browse through the live offerings, from baby chicks to dogs, birds, rabbits, miniature goats and more.
As with any business, Moreno has had to adjust to changes in the marketplace and individual preferences. “We’re independent,” he said. “The box stores are our main competition and it can be difficult to stay relevant with the big boys.”
Other changes have come due to evolving customer tastes. Moreno said years back the driving factor on food choice was cost, with customers looking for the cheapest prices. Today, as people become more health-conscious with regard to their animals, the quality of ingredients is more important. “We lean more toward premium foods, more organic ingredients, grain-free food, things like that,” Moreno said.
While the sale of animals can be controversial for some people, Moreno stresses a commitment to doing the right thing for the animals as well as the pet owners. “Our goal is education,” he said. “Is this the best pet for you? Well, let’s talk about it. There have been times I have refused to sell a pet because they weren’t ready.”
Two of Moreno’s personal pets that he keeps at the store came to him because someone got into something they were not prepared for. Two albino Burmese pythons live at the store in a specially designed, climate-controlled “snake pit.” Maxine is about 16 feet long and weighs 180 pounds, while Balboa is smaller at about 100 pounds.
“I got them from people that didn’t know what they got into,” he said. “As the snake grew they could not longer take care of it.”
A relatively new trend in the business has been a growing interest in farm fresh eggs. “We sell thousands of chicks every year,” Moreno said. “It’s a good experience for the kids. They learn and they watch the chicks grow and begin to lay eggs. Then it’s breakfast.”
Customer-centric service remains at the heart of the business, educating people about pets and their care, cultivating repeat business and offering quality products. And Moreno dedicates his time to helping out in the community. He sits on an advisory board for local high school agriculture programs and serves as board chairman of the Weslaco animal shelter.
“We try to do our part for the community and for the animals,” he said. “Weslaco and the mid Valley have been so good to us, and we try to give back. As long as the Valley enjoys us and we learn to adapt, we will be okay.”