The shop that saved kittens

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After 54 years and a celebrated track record for animal rescue work, Petland Discounts is expected to close all its stores and face a possible sale or liquidation by April


  • A stray named “Noodles” lounges in his cat condo in the back of a Petland Discount shop on West 23rd Street in Chelsea. The five-month-old kitten is up for adoption – even as the chain prepares to close its Manhattan stores. Photo: Douglas Feiden

  • Three adorable puppies, rescued by North Shore Animal League America, were among the candidates for adoption on view outside the city’s Petland Discount shops. The chain is now preparing to close all 10 of its Manhattan stores. Photo: Courtesy of North Shore Animal League America

“They helped us with the adoptions of thousands of cats and dogs and puppies and kittens.”

Joanne Yohannan, North Shore Animal League America

“Noodles” was a homeless orphan living on the streets of Virginia. His prospects seemed dire. Then, he was rescued and brought to New York for adoption. Now, he’s living in a cozy pad in the heart of Chelsea.

But the idyll may not last. His fate, at least for the moment, is unclear. He may have to relocate all over again. The reason for his change of circumstances? The expected closing of a venerable retail pet chain.

Hundreds of Manhattan bookstores, clothing stores, barbershops, thrift shops, Judaica shops, bars, restaurants, corner bodegas, green grocers and mom-and-pops of every variety have already suffered similar fates.

This time, the victim of the far-reaching brick-and-mortar retrenchment is Petland Discounts, a mid-sized, Brentwood, L.I.-based chain that has 10 stores in the borough, including locations in Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, Greenwich Village, East Harlem, West Harlem and the Upper West Side.

Founded in 1965, the company has long been buffeted by soaring rents and utility bills and hammered on price by web-based retailers — like online pet store, which routinely undercuts it on guinea pig food, parakeet supplies, glass fish tanks and tropical reptile terrariums.

But the final blow came on Jan. 14 when Neil Padron, Petland’s president, founder and sole proprietor, died of bladder cancer at the age of 74.

Just four days later, the company filed a so-called WARN Notice with the New York State Dept. of Labor saying that all 367 of its employees would be laid off by April 18.

The chain didn’t return calls. Amy Eisenberg, Padron’s daughter, who is Petland’s director of special events, didn’t respond to six calls to her office and cell phone over a week-long period.

But the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification said that the retail workers, all nonunionized, were being let go as a result of “plant closings” and “economic dislocation.”

After 54 years, all of Petland’s 78 stores in the tri-state area — down 34 percent from a peak of 118 two decades ago — are now expected to be shuttered, and the company itself faces a possible sale or liquidation.

The Manhattan shops are set to close on a rolling basis over the next two months, according to managers and employees at five of the locations.

“I’m already looking for a new job,” said Tony Carrion, an assistant manager in the store at 312 West 23rd St. off Eighth Avenue in Chelsea, which will close in March. “There are five of us here, and only one of us has found a job so far. The rest of us are still out looking.”

Feedback from pet-lovers has kept him going, Carrion said: “Customers have been very upset, they keep telling us they want us to stay, they wish we wouldn’t close, they hope somebody buys us out, and it’s been very, very comforting,” he added.

The news has also rattled the local animal-rescue community because Padron’s company — famed for its commercial jingle and the slogan, “For the best care a pet can get” — was also celebrated for its work tending to strays and abandoned or ill-treated animals.

“They helped us raise awareness of the plight of homeless animals for close to 15 years, and they were always fantastic supporters of our adoption events and campaigns,” said Joanne Yohannan, the senior vice president for operations at the North Shore Animal League America.

“It is fair to say that over all these years, they helped us with the adoptions of thousands of cats and dogs and puppies and kittens,” she added.

North Shore, a no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization on Long Island, worked with Petlands on two separate initiatives:

An in-store adoption program in which cats liked Noodles temporarily live in “cat condos,” or play cages, at select shops scattered across the city. And mobile adoption events in which vehicles housing 20 to 30 animals awaiting adoption park in front of the store so that potential adopters can view, visit, and perhaps, fall in love with them.

Yohannan said that North Shore and Petlands teamed up for 43 events throughout the tri-state area in 2017, and placed felines that were available for adoption in nine stores.

And that’s where poor Noodles comes in. The five-month-old neutered, domestic short hair was rescued from Virginia — he’s a “young Southern gentleman,” North Shore says — and relocated to Chelsea in January to be adopted.

He’s still living on West 23rd Street. He’s got a nice view of Petlands’ fish tanks and bird cages. And he’s still available. But with the store closing in March, the clock is ticking.

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