THE owners of a popular Helensburgh pet store have decided to sell up and move on – after 36 years.

Barry and Kathleen Owen have become weel kent faces in the town over the years having run the Helensburgh Pet Shop on Sinclair Street since 1983.

Having opened the store a year after they got married, the couple are now moving on to pastures new with an altogether different business venture lined up.

Having become more than just the town’s only specialist shop for pet supplies, offering knowledgeable advice about all things animal related as well as a friendly face for residents’ furry, feathered and fishy family, Kathleen, 56, said the move is tinged with sadness, but is the right thing to do.

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“We just felt it was time for someone younger to take on the role,” she said, “so, our manageress Lesley, who has worked in the shop for around 20 years, will be taking over with her son, Alan.

“There was a gap in the market at the time when we first opened up, originally in West Princes Street before moving to our current premises, and it was the right opportunity for us.

“We’ve got a new venture. We’ve bought some holiday cottages near Loch Lomond and this will allow us to enjoy our time doing things that we love, like cycling and travelling.

“We have five children - one of them is getting married soon and they are starting to move on now.

“We’re not quite retired yet but we felt the time was right for change.”

The shop remains a regular attraction for locals and tourists alike. Its most famous inhabitant was the much-loved macaw, BJ, named after Barry and Kathleen’s son, Barry James.

The popular parrot passed away in 2013 at the age of 28 but is still remembered fondly by customers.

Kathleen said: “BJ was with us from the very beginning. We got him about a year after we opened the shop.

“He was a real character and became very familiar with all the customers. He was very temperamental with men, he was partial to the ladies. He was hilarious.

“We were devastated when he died. He was a constant in the shop and it was never really the same without him.”

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Barry, 57, said: “BJ escaped once, he flew right out the door and headed towards the Rhu direction before turning back and ended up on the roof of what is now the Mandarin restaurant in West Princes Street.

“I had to climb up on to the roof and get him. I put a shopping bag on the end of a pole and got him inside it, then the tricky bit was getting back down, but I think he was glad to get back inside after all that excitement.”

Although the couple are cutting ties with this career path, with their last day on Saturday, they are proud of the impact that their independent store has made in Helensburgh and are confident that it will be in good hands.

Kathleen said: “We’ve had so many young people come in and work with us over the years, people at 14 and 15 who lack confidence, and it’s been so good for them and us to work with them.

“Working in a shop gives them the confidence and skills they need to go on to find jobs or go to university, and my husband has even had letters from people years later thanking him for helping them.”

Barry added: “It’s a long time, so there is a bit of sadness, but it’s time for change.

“The kids are all away from home now and we’re ready for a new challenge - it’s exciting.

“We are incredibly grateful for all the support over the years and we want to thank all our loyal customers who have been a pleasure to serve and many of whom have become close friends.”