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Sunday, December 03, 2023

Unlike Samuel L. Jackson, Brian Maddox has not had it with these mother… well, these snakes.

In fact, Maddox, the manager of the aptly named reptile boutique "Snakes," can't seem to get enough of them.

He personally owns about 40 reptiles, including several caimans, boas and large lizards, and he has even made his dedication to the animals he loves more permanent with the intertwining snakes tattooed onto his right arm.

The 33-year-old has been working at Snakes since the store opened at 2416 SW 34th St. about five years ago.

He knows pages upon pages of information on the animals his store carries, including snakes, monitors, geckos and tortoises.

"Basically, everything you need to know about the reptiles you can acquire here," he said proudly.

But Maddox's knowledge of and softness for the scaly serpents started long before his position at Snakes in Gainesville.

At age 17 while he was living in Miami, Hurricane Andrew ravaged the area. In the aftermath of the storm, Maddox found and caught his first reptile a red rat snake.

Before that moment, Maddox dreamt of being an artist, and after high school, a marine biologist, but his focus shifted again as he became interested in keeping in shape with the ultimate goal of becoming a personal trainer, he said.

While on this track, he continued to collect reptiles and found himself "falling for the animals a lot more because it was just so different."

At that point, Maddox found his calling.

He began working in South Florida, "importing and exporting reptiles" for stores, he said.

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"It hadn't gotten as big as it is today," he said of the reptile pet industry. "I thought I could be ahead of the game."

Maddox was ahead of the game enough to make a career of dealing in reptile companions for 16 years.

Although he did not receive formal education on reptiles and their care, his knowledge is exceptionally vast regarding species in the class Reptilia.

"Seventy-five percent of what I know I learned just from hands-on experience," Maddox said. "I read some books here and there and met some people who showed me things, but it was mostly just me working with the animals."

When the opportunity to work at Snakes in Gainesville came up, he jumped on it.

Maddox said that Snakes is unique because it carries so many reptiles that are hard to find, such as species like the olive python and Cuban rock iguana that can only be found through captive breeding.

He said many of these kinds of animals are brought in from the wild, raised by owners and then sold at stores like Snakes.

Some are even close to being on the endangered species list, he said.

To accommodate and properly care for theses creatures, the store is always kept at a balmy 78 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes the familiar pet store smell all the more pungent as it wafts around the building, mixing with the odors of damp outdoor greenery and pet food.

This is Maddox's office.

In addition to reptiles themselves, he deals in their accessories as well.

Bedding for cages, fake ponds and rocks, fake plants and flowers, decorative backgrounds, food and lighting. All these things fill the aisles of Snakes, while pet cages line the walls and isles in the store, along with almost every accessory or tool imaginable to care for an animal.

For Maddox, this is a home away from home. With as many animals as he owns, he devotes an entire room in his house just for keeping reptiles.

"I've always been an animal person, but it's the maintenance that drew me to [reptiles]," he said.

"It's just not like having a dog or a cat. You've got a big lizard and it's just fascinating."

Maddox said that having the store located in a predominately college town has not affected business at all. In fact, they do not rely on college students for business, he said. Some do tend to come in and buy snakes, such as the ball python, the most requested animal at the store.

While most patrons are just regular customers, the unique nature of the shop and its ware bring in some interesting characters, Maddox admitted.

"We get some crazies in here every now and then," he grinned.

But Maddox isn't one to judge. A little girl leaving the store with a cage full of flying bugs exclaimed to her mom that everything in the shop was "gross."

Maddox doesn't care. He's satisfied.

"I'm just taking my interest to the streets," he said. "Basically, I'm doing something I love and making money at the same time."

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