Jay Erickson got his very first boa constrictor when he was 16 and “didn’t get bit by the snake but did get bit by the reptile bug.”
Erickson fell in love with boas and other snakes and reptiles, attending reptile shows with his mother in Florida and growing his collection.
In 2013, Erickson tried his hand at breeding, starting with boa constrictors.
“I have a love for every reptile, but I’m a boa guy,” Erickson said. “My passion is in breeding boas.”
Erickson said that he learned everything he knows today from a friend, Richard Delbono, with a breeding facility in Florida. His friend let him peruse the facility for a week and taught Erickson how to “pick out the genetics” on different boas.
“[Delbono] used to quiz me on different things,” Erickson said. “Whenever he produced a litter [of snakes] or he saw something that was cool, he would send me a photo and ask me what it was. If I got it wrong or right, he would ask me what I saw, what characteristics I could see, and he’d tell me how to distinguish between different morphs.”
According to Embora Pets, a morph is “a genetic mutation that alters the appearance of the snake” while remaining the same breed.
Morphs and genetic breeding have led to fascinating colors and patterns presenting themselves on snakes with examples such as the bright yellow albino ball python and brown-patterned spider ball python.
While Erickson enjoyed the process of breeding snakes, he had an unfulfilled dream: opening a reptile shop.
Last year, Erickson and his stepfather began “tossing around the idea about opening a store” but couldn’t “put [their] finger on the right location.”
“Opening a store is a big jump,” Erickson said. “It took a lot of faith and … understanding of what we were getting into.”
Erickson said that with all the places he and his family looked, nothing felt right. Eventually, he was contacted by a friend in California, Michael Roscoe, that said he would “get behind [them] and their vision” and helped motivate Erickson to keep looking. He soon found the perfect spot off Canton Road.
“I’m glad we waited for this place,” Erickson said. “It’s the perfect spot for us.”
Erickson’s stepfather, Tom Wintemute, agreed that the shop was perfect, saying that location was everything.
“If you look at a map, there are only a few other reptile shops within a 50-mile radius,” Wintemute said. “We wanted to be close to people that needed us.”
“People will walk in for feeders or crickets or something and say, ‘Man, I’m so glad I don’t have to drive 45 minutes away,’” he said. “It took a while for us to find something within our budget and in the right location, but we did it and we’re proud.”
While Erickson said the store was “perfect,” he said that a lot of “work and frustration” went into putting everything together. Between building the infrastructure they needed for the reptiles to advertising and balancing a personal life, Erickson said that the process was “tough.”
“It was literally three months of blood, sweat and tears,” Erickson said. “But the outcome has been amazing thus far … and the response from the community has been amazing and so positive. I’m really happy with everything.”
With the positive community response, Erickson said that he’s looking forward to growing with Forsyth County, hosting local shows with underprivileged and special needs children.
“We want to give back to this community,” Erickson said. “Educate people about reptiles and put a positive light on the reptile community.”
He that he and his family are working with the USDA to get an education certification. The certification would allow them to host outreach programs and events in the community with different reptiles.
“Our goal is to make the hobby [of reptile keeping] enjoyable,” Erickson said. “We want to make sure each customer has a great experience, because that’s how we all got into it. We had good experiences and we enjoyed it.”
Erickson said that one of his personal goals is to pass his passion for reptile keeping to as many people as possible and find life-long friends in customers that enter the store.
Endless Scales has multiple types of colorful snakes and lizards, but Hannah Cash, Erickson’s girlfriend, has a section for her own passion and pet project: breeding tarantulas.
“I grew up not liking spiders,” Erickson said. “You know, hating the feeling of something crawling on me. But as [Hannah Cash] started wanting to keep them, I became interested in their intricate webs, the way they eat, the way they molt.”
Erickson said he also had a fondness for the frogs they sold, saying their colors and patterns “are just beautiful.”
While each animal that they sell is beautifully patterned and neat to look at, Erickson encouraged people to remember that reptiles are still wild animals at heart.
“They are still at their core wild animals,” Erickson said. “But if you treat each reptile with respect and work for it, the animals are just amazing to keep.”
“We always say that for the animal to respect you, you have to respect the animal first,” he said. “And that means taking care of its needs, taking the time to clean and feed it, proper heating, proper humidity, proper calcium and vitamins. You have to work for these animals.”
Erickson encouraged anyone who is interested or have questions to stop by Endless Scales.
“We love to meet new people and share our passion,” Erickson said. “And answer questions. Misinformation is all over the reptile world, so I always say to come in and just ask. We won’t bite.”
Endless Scales is located at 432 Canton Road.
For more information about the shop, call 678-807-0481 or visit Facebook at ‘Exotic Pets and Supply by Endless Scales.’