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As Petland Discounts opened stores across metropolitan New York, the pet store chain was propelled in no small part by a catchy commercial jingle that is now embedded in the region’s collective consciousness.
“Petland Discounts,” a nondescript chorus crooned over joyous synthesizer music. “For the best care a pet can get.”
Later this year, that may no longer be the case.
Last month, just days after the death of its longtime owner, Petland Discounts announced that it may have to close dozens of its stores and lay off workers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, according to notices filed with each state’s Department of Labor.
The company, which for decades has supplied pet owners with everything needed to keep their animal companions well fed, clean and happy, said in the documents that it would have to lay off more than 300 employees across more than 70 locations.
Amy Eisenberg, Petland Discounts’ director of public relations and special events, told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper that the company’s closure was not certain. She said Petland Discounts filed the notices in case it needed to close amid the uncertainty caused by the death of its president and founder, Neil Padron.
“Neil is the sole proprietor, and the family is still trying to figure everything out,” Ms. Eisenberg, who is Mr. Padron’s daughter, said. Ms. Eisenberg declined to comment for this article.
But Mayor Dwayne Warren of Orange, N.J., said in a statement on Wednesday that a national representative of Petland Discounts told him it would “permanently close all company operations,” including the chain’s outpost in his city, because of Mr. Padron’s death.
Staff and customers at Petland Discounts stores in Brooklyn on Friday acted as though the closings were all but certain. The fish tanks’ bubbles were still roiling and the cockatiels kept chirping, but the people were glum.
Tatiana Vazquez, the Park Slope store’s manager, said she had known about her store’s impending closure for about a week.
She said Petland Discounts was struggling to compete with online retailers. Fish food priced $13 at her store, she said, could sell for $5 at the pet store site Chewy.com.
Luis Garcia, 48, who has worked at the store in Sunset Park for the past three years, said that initially he was told that the chain could stay open if the owner’s heirs found a buyer. He has since learned that the company will help him find another job, which he saw as a sign that the closure is final.
Mr. Garcia added that he considers his workplace “a public zoo.”
Mr. Padron, who died Jan. 14 from bladder cancer, started his pet retail business in Queens in 1965. His first store was a tropical fish emporium that sold aquatic creatures, as well as the aquariums and supplies needed to maintain them.
As Petland Discounts grew, it expanded its offerings. The chain stocked cat food and dog toys, but also hawked live birds and their cages, reptiles and terrariums, and small animals like hamsters and the wheels that kept them busy.
Beyond supplying pets and pet products, Petland offered something for the animal-averse as well: its commercials. Punctuated by an innocuous yet mellifluous jingle, the advertisements left an indelible impression on countless New Yorkers who watched local television in the 1980s and 1990s.
Adam Moss, 27, who grew up in Highland Park, N.J., remembered seeing the company’s commercials “everywhere and every day.” When he heard the company might close, he went back to listen to old commercials he had saved and others he found on YouTube.
“I lived in the area so long they’ve become iconic to me,” Mr. Moss said. “It was so disappointing. I cried for a while after relistening to some of them.”
Mr. Padron showed up often in the commercials. With his strong New York accent and bushy mustache, he stood out on local channels as he walked through the aisles of Petland Discounts stores, promising anything a pet lover could need at a reasonable cost.
At the company’s peak, Petland Discounts ran 118 locations across three states. As of this week, it operated 78, Ms. Eisenberg told Newsday.
Petland Discounts said in the notices it filed that it would close all of its New Jersey and Connecticut stores by March 19 and its New York locations one month later.
Steven Hernandez, 17, said the closure of the store in Sunset Park would complicate his procurement of live crickets for his two pet bearded dragons.
If he shops online, he will be forced to buy in bulk, he said, and his apartment cannot accommodate so many crickets.
“This will make it a lot harder,” Mr. Hernandez said. “A lot.”