CALL: 610-589-4444
Ordering Portal beta 

{Expedited} Countdown to move completion

Most of you – That is, most of you that are likely to find your way to this post, anyway – Are aware in broad strokes of the issues we’ve had since purchasing our new property in July of 2020. This was the onset of the first wave of the continuing COVID epidemic, just as the world was shutting down and nobody fully knew what the pandemic would be. Needless to say, we were delayed extraneously; Closing nearly 90 days late, then amid cancelled township meetings, missing personnel within the meetings that DID occur, shuttered professionals’ offices, and the ensuing and ongoing labor shortage, it took a full year (coincidentally, a full year to the day) for our township to even state WHAT zoning relief would be necessary given the unusual nature of our industry. Throughout that time we continued on a month to month lease at our current, soon-to-be-former facility; An arrangement that that facility’s owner was happy to provide given the nature of the economy at that time. Although we were disappointed to not be able to do much with our new property, we were thankful to continue to have a home and remain functional through perhaps the busiest year our industry has ever experienced.

Flash forward to the latter part of 2021, the landlord begins to press us for a timeline, albeit politely at first. We’re rockin and rolling over at Shillington by now; prepping animal space, making mechanical and utility provisions, scheduling inspections, and beginning the construction financing process, getting ourselves ready for an orderly transition into a facility that is essentially built-to-use, on a property that is much better suited for our use than anything we’ve ever had before. The outlook at Real Pets is good; But none of these things happen overnight. Our landlord formally cancelled our lease effective 11/30/2021.

From that time until this past Tuesday, we’ve managed to negotiate a number of informal extensions, given some ground, taken some stands; Essentially informed our landlord that his initial timeline simply isn’t possible. There are inspections; There are preparations that have to happen to pass these inspections; There is, bluntly, no legal, physical, or ethical way for us to move that quickly. Let alone the fact that this is a MASSIVE industrial installation; Chillers. Boilers. Heat Exchangers. Air conditioning. The fish systems themselves are MASSIVE concrete installations weighing tons. The list goes on and on. But even absent that – This is livestock. It’s not as though it can be warehoused somewhere while we sort things out. I told him (through counsel) – And this was the truth and I stand by it – I have no idea what a judge would do if he attempted a hasty eviction.

His response was to let us stay a bit, but he jacked up the rent (initially a 113% increase, which I negotiated down to a 50% increase after I pointed out that he couldn’t actually do that), and put tremendous pressure to remove the live mammals and birds, as he felt they could have a negative impact on his ability to get tenants for adjacent units. So we got them out – Oh man did we move mountains, you want to talk about heroic measures – It is still mind blowing that only 12 weeks have passed since this initial conversation, given how much we’ve accomplished. Once the concerned animals were gone, we continued moving and prepping step-by-step and the conversation with the landlord went silent, our assumption being that he was satisfied with the progress, as well as with the elevated rent and the absence of animals. Not a word was spoken for about 6 weeks, as moving commenced as normal and so did business.

Then this past Tuesday happened.

Some of you who enjoy commercial leases in our State may know, that as progressive as Pennsylvania is on the national level on certain issues, it is actually quite archaic in regards to tenant’s rights – Especially commercial tenants such as ourselves (and perhaps yourselves). Specifically we have something called “Confession of Judgment,” which you can read about on your own if curious, but essentially allows the landlord’s attorney to act as the tenant’s attorney for initial proceedings. This shifts the legal burden tremendously on the tenant. But our landlord took it even a step further than that; He sought an emergency injunction.

The paper we were served on Tuesday summoned us to a hearing that just occurred Friday the 18th – 4 days’ notice. Many of you know that our building is in terrible shape, especially the roof which leaks appallingly badly. What the injunction sought to state was, in essence, that the building and mechanicals were in such bad shape that the building itself was unsafe and ought to be “Condemned” for want of a better term while repairs commenced (To be fair to the landlord, to whatever extent he may deserve, it pointed to aspects of our operation as contributing factors, but these accusations were hyperbolic at best). It actually sought to lock the doors and cut the power yesterday (Friday) directly after the hearing. The agita, distress, and anxiety I have experienced during that 4 day period are some of the most intense I can remember. After an offer from us for a still-pretty-hasty moving timeline of 3/31 (Which included a pretty generous cash offer as well as addressing most of their safety concerns) was rejected by landlord’s council minutes before the hearing, we prepared ourselves to request a continuance on the basis of the animals’ welfare, and my lawyer made my decision for what to do with a simple 3-word statement that I’ll probably never forget: We may lose. Should they convince the judge that the potential human danger outweighed the danger to the remaining fish, they would lock the doors, cut the power, the fish would die and whatever fallout ensued from that point on would play out. What would follow would be a lengthy legal battle for damages and, to be frank, quite possibly perjury, which nobody would enjoy and likely only the attorneys would “Win.” So the decision was made right then and there, we would offer 2 weeks; That is what we did, they accepted, absent any subsequent agreement our last day in Womelsdorf will be March 4th, and that will be that.

What Happens Now?

We did not bring in any fish this week; Barring anything unforeseen, we will not be bringing any fish into the current systems. Stock levels will be low but we’re working hard to avoid any complete shutdown of fish operations.

Two weeks is hardly an ideal amount of time to finish our new fish systems. What we have constructed currently has about 1/4 our current capacity; The stopgap plan is to take a “Temporary” extension from our current livebearer system and install it as a “Temporary” extension on this partial system at the new facility; This will get us to about 1/3 our current capacity. This will leave the footprint of the 2nd wing of our new system open so we can work expeditiously to complete that; Then, the temporary extension will be removed and the initial system will be finished. I have a small army of carpenters and workers coming Thursday or Friday of next week; As long as we can have the tools, materials, and plans on site for these guys, it’s not impossible that this system could be ready for a 3/7 arrival; But I’m not going to say it’s altogether likely either. Chances are the ultimate capacity will be somewhere between what we’d like (capacity at or near our current) and what we currently have (Zero!).

Over time I’ve identified certain fish items (tiger barbs, guppy pairs, neon tetras, and the like) as “Everyday Stock” items; Items which would be automatically stocked upon dropping below reorder points, hence we’d generally always have in stock. Time permitting I’ll be updating this list and focusing on keeping these “Everyday stock” items on hand before I worry too much about stocking more “Unicorn” type fish (Tanganykans, S/A exotics, discus, and so forth). We’ll do our best to minimize disruptions but certainly the list will likely shrink to levels not seen in years, especially next week’s (Monday 2/28) availability.

Since portions of the current systems will need to be implemented into the new systems, and also to minimize the amount of fish that are actually moved between facilities, we’ll also be offering deep discounts and offering deals on “Tank Cleaners” to customers on fish that will empty tanks that can then be broken down and moved.

Moments after this is published, our offices will go dark. Last week we announced that staging and office activities would be moved to the new facility starting this week, and after all the developments that took place since that announcement, we decided it best to keep this schedule, even though it shot all of our weekends to hell. My IT guy is standing by to tweak and make sure everything works on the other side of this process; If it goes smoothly it will only be a matter of hours. Phones will still work; I will still receive voicemails, and I will still receive emails, but as we will be bouncing around like pinballs between facilities, you may not get through right away. I will update this page with a progress report this afternoon or evening.

Silver Linings

There is a certain calm in knowing that even though this timeline is extremely compressed and will create hardship, 2 weeks from now our long, agonizing Womelsdorf nightmare will be over. Once we can all focus on our current facility, our company (as well as our lives, quite frankly!) will begin to rapidly improve. I’ll do what I can to minimize disruptions to you, our customers, and let me take this opportunity to thank you all for your support.

Please note further, all of these developments will only affect fish; All animal and feeder operations have already been functioning at the new facility.

Check back tomorrow if curious about developments from here on; I will not blow up emails with another eblast but if you navigate back to yours and re-click the link, the URL of this post won’t change.

Best Regards