Doreen’s Pet Centre: Remembering the Hackney shop where monkeys, a baby puma and a pig roamed
- Credit: Archant
“You can’t even have puppies now. I used to have a baby puma,” says a wistful Doreen Barclay, reminiscing about the 1970s when she ran Doreen’s Pet Centre in Morning Lane.
“There was nothing more famous than that shop – everyone used to come in and see all the animals.”
To be fair, it’s hard to doubt her claims when she reels off the list of weird and wonderful creatures she kept in the store.
“I also had a coatimundi [a South American mammal belonging to the raccoon family], a pot-bellied pig, two monkeys and four horses.
“I used to walk the pig up the road on a leash and everyone would slow down to look.”
Doreen’s Pets started in a small shop in Morning Lane but soon moved to a bigger, three-unit space on the same road.
It closed in 1997 when Tesco bought the land but her legacy lives on – her daughter Sheralee Hood owned The Pet Shop (Doreens) in Amhurst Road which recently closed, and Sheralee’s daughter Paige Traquair has now launched her own branch in Well Street.
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Doreen, still going strong at 79, often drops by the store, which has swapped the exotic animals of her day for services like grooming and dog walking.
“I used to help at my mum and dad’s shop, so I’ve been in the industry for a while,” said Paige, 25. “I’ve completely gutted the place and done a massive refurbishment. It’s going really well.”
Paige is too young to really remember the bizarre collection of animals Doreen had, but her mum said working in the shop was “chaos”.
Where did Doreen get her hands on such exotic animals, you are surely thinking – did she embark on perilous international expeditions like some Victorian zoologist?
“I got them from Clive in Walthamstow,” she reveals. “He used to travel and bring them back. It was the ’70s. You could get them all – you could have anything.
“He came into my store and said: ‘Doreen, I’ve got a pig. Come and see it’. So to shut him up I went round to see him. It was lying in front of the little fire place, little fat black pig it was. I had to have it, didn’t I?
“I had two 16ft Burmese pythons, which WWF wrestler Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts would borrow when he came over from America to do a show. He couldn’t bring his own over by then so he had to borrow mine, didn’t he?
“I used to take the animals on Big Breakfast. Chris Evans and Gaby Roslin would come in all the time. I also gave Robson and Jerome a German shepherd each. Robson was lovely, Jerome was a bit of a drama queen.”