Animal Kingdom's Reign Ends

Kingdom comes to an end

By Matt Bartosik
|  Tuesday, Dec 1, 2009  |  Updated 7:55 AM CDT
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A new decade is just around the corner, and it seems as though decades past are becoming distant memories.

Just recently, Chicagoans watched Kiddieland shut down and be sold for parts. And soon, after 65 years of service, the Animal Kingdom pet store will close its doors for the last time.

The pet shop located at 2980 N Milwaukee Ave, first opened in 1944 by the late Bernie Hoffman, will close sometime in December, when its owners retire.

"It's like the death of a family friend," regular customer Greg Jankowski, 50, told the Chicago Tribune.

For decades, Animal Kingdom not only served as a traditional pet shop, but also as an animal rental business. The Kingdom was home to many Chicago-based animal "stars," including Playboy model Luther the Leopard and the original Chelveston the Duck, Ray Rayner's less-than-cooperative sidekick.

Years before the strict regulations concerning exotic animals, Animal Kingdom featured unusual birds, tigers, monkeys and even a small elephant. All were available for rent from the 1950s to the 1980s.

"Everything was very loosey-goosey in those days," said current general manager Steve Maciontek. "You wanted a lion, you picked up the phone and you got a lion."

Store employees are proud of the care they provided for their animals, big and small, and they brought that same tenderness to their customers. Heavily involved with the community, Animal Kingdom provided pet blessings to locals and an animal education program to nearby schools and libraries.

Shop owners and employees will take care of the more exotic animals when the store closes. However, several other animals are still in need of a good home, so be sure to stop by the Animal Kingdom while there's still time.

The Kingdom will soon be lost.

Matt Bartosik is a Chicago native and a social media sovereign.

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