Kilgore Middle School eighth-grader Frankie Faries has a budding hobby and business that might repel her peers and adults alike.
Frankie, 13, breeds roaches in a tub in the garage of her home for sale as feed for bearded dragon lizards and sells the roaches along with breeding starter kits. They are Dubia roaches native to Central and South America and not the common household pest.
Frankie said she came up with the idea after acquiring a bearded dragon named Lizzy as a pet a year ago.
“It’s a fun process to teach me how to own a business, how to display a business,” Frankie said Saturday at her table at the HERPS Exotic Reptile and Pet Show at the Longview Exhibit Building, which continues today.
She and her mother, Jobeth, shared table space with Sue Ellen Hughes and her son, Hunter Davis, who sold ornaments shaped like spiders and scorpions along with other handmade items.
Jobeth said she is encouraging Frankie’s budding entrepreneurial spirit.
“I’m a supporting mommy,” Jobeth Faries said.
Mother and daughter were among about 40 vendors who rented space at the weekend event, according to Shawn Gray, owner with wife Lori of Dallas-based HERPS. It stands for Houston Exotic Reptile and Pet Shows and is intended to be “punny” because HERPS sounds like herpetology, the branch of zoology that studies reptiles and amphibians.
During the show, which takes place twice a year in Longview, vendors sold snakes, lizards, hamsters, turtles, frogs and other pets, along with supplies such as lighting feeders, cages, lighting and bedding.
“You see a variety of buyers,” Gray said. “Some like to purchase and breed, and you see a lot of younger kids and adults who have allergies to dogs. It is an alternative pet.”
Trisha Herron of Longview was considering an exotic pet to buy for her son, Gabriel Adair, 17, who accompanied her.
Herron looked at a hamster inside a terrarium and joked that she made a new friend.
Son Gabriel, who owns a a betta fish (also known as a Siamese fighting fish), two dogs and a cat, said he likes to look at all the animals and other living things on display.
“I’m a big animal lover,” said Gabriel, a senior at Spring Hill High School. “I’m kind of hoping for (buying) a frog if we do anything.”
The HERPS show served an educational component as well, with vendors explaining the pets they had for sale along with merchandise.
Brandi Fank of Houston manned a booth with husband Matthew selling ball pythons and Brazilian and rainbow boa constrictors. She said the snakes live as long as 17 to 20 years in captivity and eat live or frozen mice and rats.
“I was afraid of snakes,” Fank said. “That is how I met my (future) husband. He put a 12-foot Burmese python on me.”
That was eight years ago, and Fank apparently has overcome her fears, adding reptiles are no more difficult to care for than conventional pets.
“Once you learn how to care for them, it is like any other animal,” she said.
Raising reptiles also can be a “large headache,” said show attendee Bill Smith of Gladewater.
He said he raised reptiles for 10 years until around 1995 and now owns two leopard tortoises, a cat and dog. He said he bought one of the tortoises a year ago at the pet show.
“Too much effort, working a full-time job” and coming home to take care of the reptiles, Smith said.
C.D. Fields of Longview said he returned to the show with his 4-year-old granddaughter, Vera Lynn Drew, because she “enjoyed it so much last year.”
However, Fields said he was in no rush to buy Vera her first pet.
“She might end up with a fish or a mouse,” Fields said.
Vera overheard the conversation.
“I want a mouse because mouses are so cute,” she said.
Grandpa added, “She needs to be responsible enough to take care of a pet.”