Stephen Tippie, who opened a Plant City pet shop five years ago while attending Middleton High, is closing the business to pursue his master's degree.
Needing more time for college studies, coupled with today's economic climate, necessitates closing Fancypet Petstore by June 29, he said.
"We're still functioning, making ends meet, but to get good grades and my MBA, I need to step back," said Tippie, 22, working to maintain his 4.0 grade-point average. "The economy affected us to the point I can't do both. And school is definitely more important."
He is not, however, deserting the world of hedgehogs, chinchillas, ferrets and hamsters, and other animals that have held his interest since age 8 and provided a livelihood for nearly six years.
Tippie will continue his online store at www.fancypet-petstore.com. He will also continue to sell wholesale to the public, operate trade conventions and do personal consulting with pet owners and pet shop operators.
The Eagle Scout started selling pets from a Plant City Outlet Mall booth in November 2003, graduating nine months later to an 800-square-foot storefront. In April 2007, he leased his current location, 2,000 square feet, at 1507 S. Alexander St.
Within 30 days of moving to larger quarters, business tripled and continued to improve each year, reaching $250,000 annually, Tippie said.
Last October Tippie received his bachelor's degree from DeVry University and is working toward his master's in business administration through Keller Graduate School of Management.
The young businessman has launched a clearance sale and plans a "huge blowout with deep discounts" on any merchandise remaining the last weekend in June.
Tippie's parents, Susin and Butch Tippie, own and operate D&H Pet Farms in Plant City, which breeds and distributes animals to pet stores.