After fifty years of business, independent pet store Belco Pets in Belconnen, ACT, is sadly shutting down.

Owner Alexis Kilby-Luhrs worked at Belco Pets for ten years prior to purchasing it with her husband Drew 22 years ago, where it has since been a staple of the local community.

Kilby-Luhrs said the decision to close was a tough one, but due to the difficulties associated with Covid, including rude customers and lack of government support and communication, it is the right one for their health.

“It’s too hard and too exhausting trying to be responsible, trying to keep everybody safe, trying to keep up to date with the changing rules. It’s just an emotional rollercoaster.”

During the pandemic, Kilby-Luhrs and her staff worked incredibly hard adapting to the ever-changing regulations from setting up a table out the front of the store when lockdown hit, to serving customers from behind a sneeze screen when restrictions allowed customers back in store.

While 95 per cent of customers were understanding, Kilby-Luhrs said there was that five per cent that acted entitled and rude.

“It’s really hard for people working in retail to do things like ask people to wear a mask, ask people if they were double vaccinated, because you just don’t know the way people react to those situations.”

The ACT and Federal Government’s offer financial support to small businesses but Kilby-Luhrs said it is just too difficult to do all the paperwork while you’re trying to run a business and working 16-hour days.

In the end, it wasn’t the financials that forced Belco Pets to close, but the mental health of Kilby-Luhrs and her husband.

“It wasn’t that we were after money because we were doing okay. We were paying our staff and we were paying our rent because we didn’t have to close. We were one of the lucky businesses that was able to keep trading.

“It’s not so much financial for us. It’s been the physical and mental stuff. That’s just been really difficult.”

Kilby-Luhrs thanked the local community for its support over the years and urged people to be kind to others, especially those working in retail and customer service.

“Be kind to people in retail. Think about why people are doing what they’re doing and how they turn up to work every day and provide a service so that others can get their essentials.”

Kilby-Luhrs has been attempting to sell Belco Pets, they unfortunately haven’t been able to find a buyer, something the couple are sad about.

“We’re just sorry that can’t hand over Belco Pets to somebody else to continue to provide the service that the community has got over the years.”

While, moving on from Belco Pets will be difficult, Kilby-Luhrs is in the process of setting up a new business, Amuze The Mob, in which she hopes to work as an animal enrichment coach, helping people build relationships with their pets.

“I’ll be teaching people how to bond with their pets, how to actually find a good toy for an animal and step it up for the animals that are stuck inside and build those bonds between people and their pets because it’ll save a lot of behavioural stuff later on.”