Uncle Bill’s Pet Centers Launches New Location in Zionsville
Writer / Renee Larr
Photographer / Krystal Dailey
Uncle Bill’s Pet Centers recently opened a sixth location in Zionsville, at Appaloosa Crossing near 146th Street and Michigan Road. The family-owned business specializes in all the necessary pet supplies for pet lovers and hobbyists. They also offer a wide selection of cats and dogs, alongside amphibians, reptiles, and other unusual and exotic pets.
“We chose that location because of the community of people who live in the area,” says Co-CEO Lori Wilson. “They seem to be a tight-knit, close community. Being a family-owned business, we aim to be in smaller markets where our employees can offer the best customer service and the highest-quality products.”
Uncle Bill’s Pet Centers was founded in 1985 by Wilson’s grandfather, Bob Wilson, a retired marine and FBI agent. He built the world’s largest armored-car business in Chicago in the 1970s. He then sold the business and founded Wilson Pet Supply, a Chicago distributorship. He wanted to sell to companies in Indiana but no one wanted to buy from him, so he decided to start his own business and opened the first Uncle Bill’s location on the east side of Indianapolis.
“My father took over ownership in 1989 when my grandfather retired,” Lori says. “My father was a CFO for a large hospital in West Virginia. We didn’t know anything about pets but we learned quickly about pets and pet supplies, and now here we are with our sixth location in Zionsville.”
Bob chose the name Uncle Bill’s to pay homage to his uncle Bill. His uncle was an avid poker player and farmer. The only form of collateral the other farmers had to play poker was animals. Uncle Bill ended up winning a menagerie of animals during those poker games.
“Apparently, the joke was that he should open a pet store because he had all these animals,” Lori says. “For some reason, that stuck with my grandfather. When he came up with a name, he wanted a family-type name for the business, so he chose Uncle Bill’s Pet Center.”
Lori says her family is proud of the quality of their products, and their partnerships with other family-owned businesses. She says they partnered with Fromm Family Pet Food, a fifth-generation company that sells premium pet food.
“We aren’t a corporate business, so we can sell brands customers aren’t able to find anywhere else,” Lori says. “Many of these companies will only work with supply stores they trust to educate the consumer.”
It’s vital to Wilson and her brother, Co-CEO Scott Wilson, that the staff they hire is friendly and highly knowledgeable about the products and pets sold. Scott says there is a considerable demand for aquatic pets, reptiles, and exotic and unusual pets.
“We’re one of the few pet stores in the area that carry a large selection of saltwater fish,” Scott says. “We try to cater to our customers wants and needs, so if we don’t have something, we can usually order it. We carry a large selection of basic reptiles like bearded dragons, iguanas and geckos, but we also sell rarer types. It’s also important for us to educate the consumer on the animal’s needs.”
Lori says about 90% of the kittens Uncle Bill’s offers have been rescued, but they also provide pure bread Bengal and Persian kittens from which to choose. They have partnered with local organizations to vaccinate and re-home animals and also re-home other small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters.
Scott says it’s essential for people to know Uncle Bill’s when applicable works with USDA-licensed dog breeders. They also partner with the Canine Care Certified (CCC) program through the College of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University. CCC is a nationwide, voluntary program that addresses the health and overall welfare of dogs in the care of U.S. breeders. Uncle Bill’s also works with Canine Trainer and Behaviorist Donna Chandler to ensure the puppy is adapting to their new environment and becomes a well-behaved family member.
“The biggest question we’re asked is if the puppies we sell come from puppy mills,” Lori says. “The answer is no. We are extremely picky and selective about where we get our animals. It’s not unusual for us to travel to meet with a breeder first to ensure they meet our standards. Unfortunately, we have had to turn some down because they don’t meet our standards for quality and care. We fully stand behind every animal we sell, and we also offer an extensive health warranty on our puppies.”
Uncle Bill’s in Zionsville is located at 3101 South U.S. 421. For more information, call 463-276-9259 or visit unclebills.com.