MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A Blount County pet store targeted by protesters earlier this year is going out of business.
The Blount County Humane Society accused the Maryville Petland store of
supporting puppy mills in January; however the store management calls those allegations false.
Managers say the economy, not the protest, is closing the doors.
Owner Brenda Oliviera expects to close the store as soon as a week.
"We have a lot of good customers. I'll miss them," owner Brenda Oliviera said.
Oliviera says fewer and fewer sales this year has the pet shop going out of business.
"We're down to three employees. we used to run 30. we'll sit behind the
counter and wait for someone to come in, it's just steadily over the
last year gotten to where we can't pay the bills." Oliviera said.
It's the same pet store protesters with the Blount County Humane
Society protested several months ago.
Protesters accused Petland of selling puppies from inhumane puppy mills.
"We didn't do that here. i know other franchise owners that didn't do
any of that either," Oliviera said.
Oliviera says the protest didn't affect sales much, adding that it didn't help either.
"I hate to see anybody lose their personal business," Blount County Humane Society founder Steven Phipps said.
However, Phipps says he won't miss the store, either.
"If they're going under means puppy mill puppies won't be sold in
Blount county, we're happy about that," Phipps said.
Oliviera says sales have been hurting for years. She says after Petsmart opened just down the street in 2007, her sales
dropped about 40 percent.
Sales never rebounded.
Loyal customers, such as Andrea Hathaway say they'll miss the store
and friendly service.
"I''m really sad. i feel like i have to go to the bigger corporate pet
store now. i like the feel of this store," Hathaway said.
And it's customers, like Hathaway, Oliviera says have meant so much.
"Thank you so much. it's been great," she said.
Petland still has to sell off birds, rabbits, fish, and other animals. Now, all at half price.