Clint Gabbert doesn’t put too much stock in learning through books.
“I’ve always learned better by just doing something,” the 20-year-old said.
It’s no surprise, then, that he chose business as a career.
In March 2010, a little more than two years after he graduated from Moffat County High School, he and his mother, Leona, opened The Jungle Pet Shop at 565 Yampa Ave.
His choice put him on a different trajectory than most of his peers.
Instead of cramming for finals or sitting through lectures, Gabbert is learning about merchandising, finance and other essential business concepts the way he learns best: through experience.
Not that the pet shop gig is unfamiliar to Gabbert.
He worked at Baker Drive Pets since he was 14, and he ran his own saltwater fish business inside the store for about nine months.
While he was in high school, he had aspirations to enter the business world.
“That’s kind of what my goal was,” he said. “I didn’t plan on it happening so abruptly.”
The change from working in a pet shop to co-owning one wasn’t that significant, he said, if you don’t consider the financial side of things.
“It’s expensive,” he said, especially when all the equipment, like aquariums and pet food, are taken into account.
At the ripe age of 20, Gabbert is one of the youngest businessmen in downtown Craig and the city overall.
Terry Carwile, who owns Downtown Books a few doors away from The Jungle, believes young entrepreneurs like Gabbert are key to ensuring Craig’s economic future.
“If you’re going to use the word ‘sustainable’ … you would really like to have a generational sort of advancement,” said Carwile, who also is Craig’s mayor.
Gabbert doesn’t think much about his comparative youth, he said.
He’s got too many other things on his mind, like gauging his clientele’s needs and weighing which kinds of animals, including reptiles, birds and fish, will sell best.
Gabbert also sells rodents, although “I really am not fond of them,” he said.
It’s all part of the package, though, in running a pet shop in a small town. His real passion is fish, and there are some aquariums out there he would love to sell, but a small demographic like Craig doesn’t support specialty stores, he said.
Yet running a business in a small town has its perks, namely less competition, he said.
That’s not to say being a small-business owner in Craig isn’t sometimes an uphill battle, but business is going well at The Jungle —“It’s definitely been a lot more successful than we had planned it to be,” Gabbert said —and he and Leona are planning to advance to the next stage of business development: expansion.
Gabbert estimates by June, or possibly sooner, The Jungle will have a new home at 29 W. Victory Way.