"People are buying online:" It's the end of the road for Hoffer's Tropic Life Pet Center

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- When the first store opened in 1973, it measured about 600 square feet. 41 years later, the facility houses more than 26,000 square feet of pets and supplies. But now, the owner of Hoffer's Tropic Life Pet Center says he's preparing to shut down for good.

The reserved reptiles, frisky felines and American alligators are all among the amazing animals who have lived within the walls of Hoffer's Tropic Life Pets. But on Monday, October 13th, owner Mike Hoffer says economic pressures are pushing him to close what he says is the country's largest pet store of its kind. It'll close before the end of this year.

"More and more people are buying online -- and it, it hurts," said Hoffer.

The pain is shared by thousands of pets and people who have come to count on Hoffer's help.

"I'd really wanted to bring my little one here to see all the animals. So, I was like, 'Well, we better get out there, now, 'cause now they're closing. It's kinda disappointing," said Heidi McMurphy, a Hoffer's customer.

But even as he prepares to shut his doors, Hoffer hopes he has a way to hang on.

"If some rich guy would come in and say, 'I wanna invest in this store, buy the store, the company, the property, the business -- for my kids to run,' I would tell him, 'I'll stay on, for as long as you want, and I won't take a cent out of it. I'll just, I'll work for free.' That's how much I love it," said Hoffer.

Hoffer says the daily tortoise feedings, library talks, birthday parties, school tours and free popcorn Sundays will continue until the store closes.