Biz Buzz: Reptiles abound at West Valley Mall
by Denise Ellen Rizzo /
May 10, 2012 | 4743 views | 6 6 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jeff Porto has Auto, a black-throat monitor lizard, perch on his back at his Shed Skin Reptile Experience shop in West Valley Mall. The new store features a variety of snakes, lizards, turtles and tortoises.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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Geckos, chameleons, tortoises and snakes are just a few of the animals available for purchase at a new reptile store in the West Valley Mall.

Shed Skin Reptile Experience is owned and operated by Jeff Porto. A recently retired Hayward police officer, he has turned his hobby of raising reptiles into a business.

“I got my first one when I was 8 years old,” he said. “It was a gopher snake. I was riding my bike, and I thought it was a stick, so I picked it up.”

After he convinced his mother to keep the snake, his love of reptiles grew.

One unique aspect to the shop is that all of the animals inside have been rescued or raised from birth by Porto, and he considers all of them his personal pets. He said he started breeding reptiles about 15 years ago, and he has close to 300 reptiles that range in age from juvenile to adult.

Porto said that, at this point in his life, his desire to spread his love of reptiles has slightly surpassed his desire to keep all of them as pets. In fact, it was the motivating factor for him to open his shop.

“I love them enough not to sell them, but I have to,” he said.

Because he loves his animals, he said, he tries to educate his customers before he sells.

In addition to teaching customers about the species, he can also show his customers what their animal could grow into as an adult by walking a few steps to a different display area.

Not everyone, he said, understands reptiles. He said a man visited the store wanting to purchase a chameleon for his 5-year-old daughter. He said he had to explain that a chameleon was a poor choice, because a child’s desire to hold it would eventually kill that species of lizard.

“I’m a small outfit that started as a hobby,” Porto said. “There are big breeders, and I’m a little man who wants to do the right thing and teach them (customers).”

The largest reptiles on display — a 5-foot black-throat monitor lizard, a 14-foot reticulated python and a 155-pound Sulcata tortoise — are not for sale, but they are fun to watch in their display areas.

Although the adults cannot be bought, he does sell a variety of their offspring, including young savannah and Nile monitor lizards, tegu lizards and sulcata tortoises, and a variety of snakes, including corn snakes, boas and pythons.

Prices of the animals depend upon the species, and choices range from those suitable for a novice owner to those best for an experienced breeder.

Those looking to start out might want to consider a simple green anole lizard for $8.99, while a more experienced reptile enthusiast might want to consider purchasing Porto’s 4-year-old sulcata tortoise for $450 or his albino python for $2,000, Porto said.

In addition to teaching his customers, Porto also has a traveling reptile program that he takes on the road to schools as an educational tool.

“It is fun going to the schools, because children ask the simplest questions, like ‘do they bite?’” he said, “You describe reptiles by what they do, where they are from and what they look like. They only have one (thought) — survive, live and eat.”

In addition to selling the animals, Porto also has food, equipment, supplies and environmental cages for sale.

Shed Skin Reptile Experience is inside the West Valley Mall, 3200 Naglee Road, and can be contacted on the Web at or by calling 404-3107.
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May 14, 2012

Is this the same guy who was at the Bean Festivals?

May 14, 2012
My children love this place!

They went to the one in Lodi and Hawyard and we like having a place in Tracy.
May 14, 2012
Hey, trying to keep on the positive side, maybe with this gentleman being a retired Hayward police officer, he will indirectly "help" with keeping an eye on things down there at the mall. :o) I wish him luck and good business and give him an A for trying! Have a good day.

May 11, 2012
First of all IMHO, fledgling refers to something new or immature, a startup. The reptile store may be fledgling but the Mall can’t be as it has been here for years. Second, what a dream killer you are, this guy has taken a hobby and turned it into a business where he employs and educates people while making a buck too. He is doing something positive, you should try it. Didn’t you mother ever tell you that if you don’t have something nice to say to keep it shut? Try it!
May 11, 2012
Fledgling - A person or organization that is immature, inexperienced, or underdeveloped: "the fledgling democracies of eastern Europe".

Who cares about what this guy is doing. The point is it's not the type of store the mall needs nor will it succeed in this location. My comment is more with regards to the types of stores the mall puts in their empty spaces. It seems they'll take anyone willing to pay the rent and not think about how the mall will be represented or if the store even can survive. This is a sign of bad management at a mall that has had a steady decline since its inception and has never really gotten off the ground (hence the term fledgling). Motherhood and Maternity just closed its doors in the mall too. Macy's was the only decent thing this mall has seen and that was thanks to the city of Tracy's taxpayers, not the mall itself. If they don't manage this place correctly, this mall could be in bad shape.

Best of luck to the reptile guy, but I really could care less about him or his business. And if your mother taught you that if you don't have something nice to say to keep it shut, shouldn't you take her advice instead of doling it out to others? Try it.
May 11, 2012
A Reptile store in a mall? Yet another store destined to bite the dust in this fledgling mall.

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