November 16, 2015

pet-world-logoAnnouncing the OFFICIAL COUNTDOWN to reopening Pet World!

You miss the PW experience. We miss the PW experience. The temporary location has been great but we are all SO READY to get back in that big building! Let the countdown begin.

Immediately after the fire our web site traffic exploded and we are happy to announce we have replaced it with a new site that is much more mobile friendly. We still have a few details to work out but we think you’ll like it! You'll notice you no longer have to scroll through miles of fire updates to read the most current update. That's just one of many improved features!

If you’ve driven by the damaged location you’ve seen it was essentially destroyed. The fire was much worse than anyone realized and even the steel, overhead beams were destroyed. With a fire that intense that reached flashover so fast, we are truly fortunate that Pet World was closed at the time. After seeing the extent of the damage we now understand why so many officials don’t believe any people would have made it out of that fire alive if we had been open. Drive by sometime soon and you’ll understand why we are now the biggest proponents of fire suppression systems you’ll ever meet. We will have 24/7 monitored smoke detection with not just landline monitoring but wifi and cellular monitoring! That means a fire alarm will be sent in the time it takes to send a text message. Our cell phones will be alerted as well as central dispatch and emergency services, all within mere minutes. We'll also have live feed surveillance with 24/7 temperature readings as well as high tech fire sprinklers. Our systems will rival those of a hospital. The new building will be the safest place in Lawrence for animals and animal lovers alike!

Good news! We finally have an official timeline. Expert masons are finishing up the brick replacement right now and the roof gets rebuilt immediately after that, then it is game on! Once the building is secure from the elements this project will finally gain serious traction.

Here is the game plan:

Wed, Nov. 25
The employment process section on the new web site will be updated with new hiring dates and the new pdf application by Wednesday, Nov. 25. We will be closed for Thanksgiving then start accepting applications on Black Friday, Nov. 27 and continue accepting apps up until the Monday before Christmas.

Sat, Nov. 28
All of our holiday specials will begin on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 28 and continue through Christmas Eve. Take advantage of fabulous prices to expand your pet passion.

Sat, Dec. 5
Our annual Holiday Sale will be Saturday, Dec. 5, 10am-8pm. We’ve borrowed some showroom space in the old Hume music location next door to bring in aquariums, large cages, and more! These are available now so come by and check them out!

Mon, Dec. 7
Online, phone, & face to face interviews will begin as early as Dec. 7 and continue as needed through Dec. 23. We have recalled all previous employees, however, we still need to replace our senior launches from last May. This winter hiring replaces what would have been our traditional fall hiring.

Saturday, Dec. 12
Our staff Christmas party is Sat night, Dec. 12. Please forgive us for closing a little early to have a much needed get together with a staff that has been through a very long grieving process. We’ll close at 6pm on Dec. 12 for the staff party which begins at EPIC followed by our traditional dinner party at the Emersons.

Mon, Dec. 14
Our new fish aquarium systems are scheduled to arrive on Dec. 14. As soon as they arrive, Ian and Xavier will transfer half of their hours to the rebuilt location to help with the installations. In the weeks following, more managers will disappear from PWX to help with set up. Matt, Jeremy, and the rest of the temp staff will work extra to meet all your needs as well as more returning employees who are helping us with the transition. For safety reasons, the rebuilt location will be completely off limits to the public until Jan. 22.

Thu, Dec. 24
In keeping with a longstanding PW tradition, the entire management team will work with Tim and Sherry on Christmas Eve. We will serve cookies, eggnog, and help customers pick up surprise Christmas gifts up until 4pm. At four o’clock we’ll lock up so everyone can get home to their families.

Fri, Dec. 25
PW will be closed on Christmas Day.

Mon, Dec. 28
With a new occupancy permit in place, all of our new shelving will arrive this week. The entire PW staff will be working tirelessly to get everything set up. We’d like to thank all the customers who’ve already offered to help us set up. Unfortunately, insurance only covers employees but thanks, anyway! We have the best customer family ever!

Starting this week we will have a new set schedule at the temp store to cover managers’ absences. All inactive employees are being called back full time by Dec. 28.

Sun, Jan. 10
All new hire interviews will be completed by Jan 10.

Thu, Jan. 14
Rookies will attend training seminars Jan 14-17 then shadow train with PW trainers starting Jan. 18.

Fri, Jan. 22
Pet World Express will close at 1pm on Friday, Jan. 22 to move all remaining inventory over to Pet World and will not reopen. All PW Rebuilding Team members (anyone with a fundraiser Rebuilding Team shirt) are invited to a Private Unveiling Party on Friday, Jan. 22, from 6-8pm.

We started offering fund raising shirts a few weeks ago and as of today we have about 375 of the 1000 shirts left. They are currently $20 for long sleeve, $15 for short sleeve, while supplies last. Your Rebuilding Team shirt is your ticket to the private party including free drinks, snacks, music, and private tours of the new, state of the art facility. Any remaining shirts will be for sale or auctioned to the highest bidders in the PW parking lot Friday evening.

We’ll begin with a special 27 minute lighting ceremony out front at 5:33pm. PW will be closed to the public that night but anyone wearing a Rebuilding Team shirt will be let in at 6pm (or as soon as there is room if we go over occupancy capacity). At 8pm we will wrap up the party to decorate for the Grand Reopening the next morning!

Sat, Jan. 23
We will reopen to the public on Saturday, Jan 23! (Easy to remember as 1/23.) Current and former employees will join us to welcome you to the new Pet World Experience. We’ll open at 10am with special events all weekend! Not all of the new exhibits will be complete and we'll be missing some new shelving (excuse the boxes) but we'll be ready to move back in and reopen!

Mon, Jan. 25
Normal business (if there is such a thing) will resume at Pet World starting Mon, Jan. 25, exactly eight months after the terrible fire.

We are very grateful for your support at our temporary location and will be especially happy to once again offer you the Pet World experience you’ve come to know and love! Please help us spread the good news!

August 27, 2015

pet-world-logoSOUNDOFF! Fire safety: How do we protect animals who can’t protect themselves?
Please read then speak your mind!

After our tragic fire on Memorial Day, Pet World landed on the front lines of fire safety for animal housing facilities – somewhere we should have been before the fire. Our hope is to share our experience, our failure, and our insight to prevent tragedies like this from happening again. Fire safety codes are currently being discussed at the city level. Suggested changes will likely be put to a vote this Tuesday so now is the time to make your voice heard. We are presenting your opinions to the city commission so think it through and don’t hold back! It’s time to SOUNDOFF!

Follow the link the read the post then comment!

August 17, 2015

As of this week, all of our managers are back up to full time and we have recalled a total of 11 employees back to work!

How is this possible? You.

Your patronage is not only saving us, but literally building us up at an impressive rate. Where you shop matters and every penny counts right now. You said you wanted us back and you meant it! You are coming in and telling us what you need. If we don’t have it, we order one for you and a few for us. All orders arrive in less than a week and are added to normal inventory so we have it in stock the next time you come in. This process is building up the essential inventory you expect from Pet World and YOU are making it happen. With the right inventory, we are not losing so many sales to other places and can afford to call back more employees who were laid off after the fire. Having more employees means better service for you so everyone wins!

With our fancy new fire alarm system, we are all finally starting to feel more comfortable having live animals in the store. We are now requesting all animals rescued from the fire to be returned. Every day we have more and more pets in stock, starting with the fire survivors. This location may be small, but each day it’s looking and feeling more like the interactive, education center you’ve come to know and love. If you or someone you know is fostering a PW animal, please spread the word that we are ready to take all of them back!

Last week I asked our employees if anyone was free Saturday and would be interested in sharing animals at Confabularryum. Most of these employees have been laid off since the fire. Amazingly, not only did several of them offer to help, they even offered to bring Goliath to the festival and then to PWX! Goliath is our large, rescued Burmese python who instantly became famous on social media when rescued by fire fighters. Locals know and love him since he travels to schools to teach kids about Rain Forest animals and teaches customers what not to buy when it comes to appropriate pets. The visit was fun for everyone even though many of us got emotional, customers included. Seeing Goliath in the pet store, especially with Mariah who single handedly cared for him the day of the fire, brought back a lot of memories and stirred up powerful emotions. At one point, I realized Goliath was literally cuddling Mariah. Never in my life would I believe a snake could exhibit emotions but I watched him curl up on Mariah’s lap and frequently look up at her then rest his head back against her. We reached a point where Mariah and I couldn’t even maintain eye contact without crying. What a truly amazing experience.

Click here for photos and a behind the scenes look at our first public appearance since the fire.

The final step of the cleaning process is underway! Soda blasting began today. This is exciting news because it means we are about to begin the next phase of rebuilding! Soda blasting is a non-destructive, environmentally friendly process in which sodium bicarbonate is applied against a surface using compressed air. It’s very effective for fire and smoke damage cleanup as it cleans the soot and deodorizes the surface, also removing the mold that generally forms after fires are extinguished, while not harming the environment with unnatural chemicals. By the end of this week we should have a projected timeline and finally get a good idea of when we can reopen in our old location. Until then, please come see us in our temporary location!

August 9, 2015

Progress! The old building has been gutted down to the studs and concrete. Next will be the replacement of the entire roof. We have a lot of work ahead of us but, thankfully, we're in forward motion with an end in sight! Tentative reopen dates are still projected for November. We'll just have to wait and see.

Tim and Sherry met with the designer/manufacturer who helped us remodel our live fish department a year ago. They toured the facility, shared ideas, drew sketches, and made preliminary plans. Sherry said they "...revered time spent on conception and creation as opposed to destruction and devastation, surrounded by like minded people who understand our mission and share our vision to bring the Pet World experience back to Lawrence even better than before. No insurance adjusters, no cleanup crew, no accountants, no stench from electrical smoke – just good ol’ Texas hospitality from a creative, Dutch family who runs an impressive American business." See her latest blog post for the entire story and her reflections on finally feeling some real hope for the future.

Tim and Lambert deHaan at Dutch Aquarium Systems

The PWX temporary location has been great and the customer support has enabled us to recall NINE employees back to work! Seeing all of you and moving forward is helping us all feel normal again. We're getting excited about rebuilding. Sherry says, "...if folks liked the Pet World experience before the fire, they’re going to love it even more when we reopen – our staff as much as our customers." The new exhibits are going to be spectacular.

Special thanks to the deHaan family and D.A.S. for helping us rebuild!

For more personal, detailed information on the latest happenings after the fire, please visit

July 19, 2015

pet-world-logoPET WORLD EXPRESS!
Have you visited PWX? It’s small but more and more stocked by the day. Filling your orders and adding them to normal stock has worked well to improve our inventory. We know it’s not the same experience without all the animals and activity and we truly appreciate your support. Insurance helps the first eight weeks but after July 25, the business must support its own expenses. Your continued patronage helps cover labor costs and as sales increase we can start calling more employees back to work! You already know supporting local businesses creates and sustains Lawrence jobs but in this situation you quite literally are maintaining our employees by shopping with us. Thank you! PW employees work hard to get and keep their jobs. They make commitments to us and to the community while we commit to them. Laying off more than half our staff after the fire was heartbreaking. Your support is making it possible to bring them back to work one at a time and we can’t thank you enough!

It’s been very nice to reconnect with so many familiar faces. We can’t believe how many of you held out that first month, buying little to nothing elsewhere, confident that we’d find a way to reopen as soon as possible. We feel honored that you trusted us. Your loyal patience is inspirational. In fact, please bring us pictures of your favorite PW memories for our inspiration wall because sometimes your faces are about the only things that keep us going on difficult days.

Your recent feedback was critical regarding our live animal decisions for our temporary location. As always, when we aren’t sure what to do, we ask and you answer. With your help, after much discussion, we’ve reached a final decision.

Compromise and Collaboration
Excessive paranoia aside, a small compromise seems best while sticking close to our new resolve regarding fire safety. Based on our animal losses during the fire, it’s obvious which animals are at the highest risk. We’re hoping new legislation will address these risks and set a new industry standard for fire prevention and we’re honored to be included in these very important discussions. I am very proud of our city and the current fire safety collaboration taking place on the local level, all the way up to the national level. City officials are considering input from many stakeholders, big and small. The two largest animal housing facilities in Lawrence are Pet World and the Humane Society. Fortunately, we work well together, sharing the same mission, and now we’re honored to work with LHS again on this most important issue.

Monitored Smoke Detection and Sprinklers
Our new system has smoke detection that is monitored 24/7 via cellular and landline, both. We’re also adding a WiFi component, all housed in a fireproof box with battery backup. Live feed surveillance with monitored temperature control is in the works. The city is pushing for mandated monitored smoke detection in all facilities and we hope they take it to the next level and require back up monitoring via cellular since we all know a landline can’t call for help when it’s destroyed by fire. Sprinklers are not available in our temporary location but we will definitely have them when we return to our big building. Now that fire sprinklers operate independently we no longer believe sprinklers are a hazard in our industry. In fact, we wish we would have already had them and believe sprinklers should be mandated in all animal facilities – especially those housing high risk pets such as birds or mammals overnight. One safety code suggestion is to require sprinklers in facilities over 3000 square feet but the problem is that size has less to do with animal safety than staffing. We’re hoping the focus will shift to potential animal risk as opposed to a facility size that will exempt virtually every facility in town, rendering that particular proposed code change fairly pointless.

Unattended Animals – the Primary Concern
Of course the real issue here is not so much about fire safety while people are present; it’s about early detection and prevention when people aren’t around to help those who can’t help themselves. Animals in a building can’t save themselves from fire. Therefore, the most important safety measures are the ones put in place for when animals are unattended. From leaving your cat inside when you go to work, to caging birds in rescue facilities, to keeping fish in your office, this fire has compelled important, fascinating discussion. As for us, we’re not as concerned about animals inside who are attended 24/7 as much as those left unattended for periods of time.

Birds at PWX
Because birds can die from simple Teflon fumes while we cook in our kitchens, we believe that, in the event of a fire, birds are the highest risk pets and should not be housed unattended anywhere without an advanced fire prevention system, monitored 24/7 via cellular and landline, that includes sprinklers to keep small fires under control to reduce smoke while awaiting rescue. For this reason, other than daytime visits, we will not keep birds for sale at PWX, but we will have birds again when we return to our refurbished building (complete with sprinklers). We still have all our connections, though, so when you are ready to make your bird purchase we can help you with that.

Mammals at PWX
Mammals are next on the high risk list. From the tiniest mouse to the largest dog, all mammals are highly susceptible to smoke. Even though our new detection system at PWX surpasses most U.S. animal facilities (since we have constant cellular in addition to landline), because it won’t have sprinklers, we will not house mammals overnight while we are closed. We will bring in a limited number of live mammals for sale and exhibit each day but they will go home with us each night.

Reptiles and Arachnids at PWX
As we discovered after the fire, many mature reptiles and arachnids have a remarkably high tolerance for smoke. For this reason we will house a limited number of reptiles and arachnids for sale and exhibit and most will stay on site overnight. This will also help PWX feel more like the Pet World experience you’ve come to know and love.

Fish at PWX
Our aquarium fish selection is terribly missed by many and since fish are the least susceptible to fire and smoke, we have set up one fish wall. The tanks are up and running and we’ll increasingly add fish as the systems become more established. These seasoned tanks will not only recreate an important part of the PW experience but also help us prepare our new fishroom when the time comes.

PWX will not be offering boarding in the temporary location. Fortunately, though, we have finally reached a decision that we will once again offer exotic boarding when we return to our refurbished building and will be pleased to offer the safest boarding possible with state of the art facilities unlike anywhere I’ve ever seen.

Except for boarding, all other services are now available. Wing and nail trimming, water treatment, water testing, and free, professional consultation are all back in full swing with normal business hours. We are excited to announce the return of StorytimeLive! and Feature Creature the first of August!

While on site parties won’t be possible at PWX we are now offering off site parties! Please call Ande at PWX to discuss.

The old building has finally been officially and completely released by all parties involved. The property owners are working through bids and doing everything they can to expedite the rebuilding process. Assuming the building can be repaired without a total demo, inside estimated dates are near Halloween while outside estimates are Christmas. Fingers crossed!

It has been my privilege and pleasure to serve as the voice of Pet World for so many years and throughout this tragedy. Communicating with all of you has been therapeutic and your supportive feedback is uplifting and truly inspiring. Future updates will continue to be posted on our website and via social media but the focus will now shift to shorter, more information based posts.

I’ll be locating the more detailed and emotional posts on my personal blog at to spare many readers the long updates. The good news is that you’ll be able to check in at PW now without the risk of tears! (No promises if you read my personal blog, though, because I have some pretty serious stuff to process regarding some of the behind the scenes ways the tragedy has affected our family and staff along with inspirational stories about customers and children.)

PW Survivor Series
Hopefully you’ve seen our video series on animal survivors by PW’s own Rachel Cross (available for viewing anytime on YouTube). It’s been truly beautiful to see the employees caring for the rescued animals. Last night, Tim broke his silence and gave Rachel the interview that many a news reporter has been denied. Parts of his interview will be in her fourth and final video soon. I was very proud of Tim for finally opening up a little. Until now he has really only spoken with family and close friends. I think seeing some of you at PWX has helped him a lot.

Returning to Normal Weirdness
After seeing our employees handle so much stress and witnessing Tim’s progress I think it’s time for me to step off the stage now and let PW transition back to what it was before the fire. After the tragedy I became equally protective of and dependent on our staff. Most of them felt too lost for words and as a mother I couldn’t help but want to shelter them while they each found their own ways of coping. Keeping them close has been as much for me as for them. They have accomplished many great feats and there is no way Tim and I could have moved forward without them. But the truth is we have many voices at Pet World and all of them are worth hearing. The focus of our social media needs to return to our part in the community. Pet World was never about me and it’s really not even about Tim. It’s about your relationships with our staff and our employees’ relationships with the community. The grieving process is complicated and we still have a long way to go but I believe we are all ready for some normal Lawrence weirdness without the tragic tales.

We will never forget what happened. Surviving was our first test. Rebuilding will be our next. But now Tim and I need to step back just a little and focus some much needed attention on our immediate family. Our kids have been amazingly strong but they miss their parents and we miss them, as well as each other. What a crazy, intense, whirlwind this has been. We’re encouraging our managers to take some time off as well. Family first, as you, our extended Pet World family, have proven to us by the way you have surrounded us with your unconditional love and support.

Thank you for listening. Thank you for following. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for carrying us. And thank you for making this journey so worthwhile. Every day I thank God for the people in my life, including you. The staff at PWX eagerly awaits your visits and Tim and I will see you again very soon.