After Almost 25 Years, the Bethesda Pet Shoppe is Calling it Quits

Owners of Elm Street store known for Buddy the parrot set to retire this month

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Buddy, the popular African gray parrot at the Bethesda Pet Shoppe

Aaron Kraut

One of Bethesda’s last remaining independent pet shops will close this month when its husband-and-wife ownership team retires.

Kay and Bob McKim opened the Bethesda Pet Shoppe on Elm Street in 1992 and quickly built up a following of pet owners looking for pet food and accessories.

“We didn’t design this to be competition with Petco or any of those chains because we wanted more premium products,” McKim said Monday. “We wanted the good food. We wanted food that we had studied, that we knew about.”

McKim said the couple, which lives in Virginia, hoped to create an “old-time pet shop” with hamsters, rabbits, hand-trained birds and fish available for people to come in and enjoy as well as purchase.

Last June, Bob McKim suffered a knee injury in the store that required surgery. The injury, along with the arrival of an increasing number of large national chain stores, restaurants and fitness studios along both sides of Elm Street, caused the McKims to consider retirement, Kay McKim said.

“It’s not that unique shopping experience that it used to be. It’s just one chain after another now,” McKim said. “It’s just turned into any strip mall. It’s not how we envisioned it when we picked our location. We certainly could’ve signed another five-year lease, but it wasn’t going to make us happy, I’m afraid. If we’re not happy, then the business suffers and we just can’t do it.”

 

Credit: Aaron Kraut

The shop never sold dogs, encouraging people to adopt instead, but was known for its parrots and cockatiels.

One in particular, an 11-year-old African gray parrot named Buddy, quickly became a customer favorite.

He learned the entire theme song from the TV show The Addams Family, even snapping his foot, and would ask customers, “Are you talking?”

“He’s the man,” McKim said.

She said potential buyers from Illinois, New York and Tennessee have called the shop in recent weeks to inquire about the store’s remaining birds.

In about two weeks, the people who bought the store’s fixtures are expected to pick them up, which will likely signal the final day for the shop.

“We’ve got wonderful people who shop here and we’re just going to miss them dearly,” McKim said. “They’re not happy. They understand, but they’re sorry to see us go. It’s time.”

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