The Gourmet Rodent
Founded in 1986 by Bill and Marcia Brant, The Gourmet Rodent specializes in serving two distinct areas of the reptile industry: high-quality feeder animals (hence the name) and reptile production. The business grew out of Bill’s lifelong fascination with reptiles, and the couple’s entrepreneurial spirit. While the intent was always to breed harmless reptiles for the pet trade, the Brant’s knew that they should have a staple product that was related to their reptile business. For that reason they began breeding and distributing rodents, both for animal feed and to supply their own internal need to feed the reptiles they were breeding. Over the years, The Gourmet Rodent has developed a loyal customer base for its animal feed that includes large zoos, entertainment attractions, wildlife rehabilitators and retail pet dealers. The reptile side of the business has grown to the point where it is the largest captive producer of several species of lizards and snakes in the world. They currently make over 60,000 overnight shipments annually throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia. What began as a small mom and pop business in Bill and Marcia’s garage, has grown into one of the largest reptile breeding facilities in the world.
How The Gourmet Rodent found its way to Newberry is a story of both corporate and local government innovation. Having outgrown the garage, The Gourmet Rodent had relocated to a rural facility on 25 acres. By 2005, the business had grown to a point where local authorities no longer felt comfortable with the scale of the operation, and despite the fact that it was located in an agricultural area, it became apparent that another move would be necessary. Although The Gourmet Rodent was a, “non-traditional,” business, City of Newberry community leaders welcomed the business into the city. Working closely with The Gourmet Rodent to understand the processes involved in the reptile breeding industry, city officials found a way to accommodate the needs of the company as well as the needs of the community and in late 2006, The Gourmet Rodent began its physical move to its current location in Newberry. Since then, The Gourmet Rodent has expanded several times and currently occupies a 56,000 square foot facility. Along with facilities growth has come significant growth in the company’s employment, to the point where they are one of the City of Newberry’s largest employers.
In 2014, after 28 years growing the business, the Brant’s sold The Gourmet Rodent to their longtime manager Mike Layman and his wife Betsy. Mike grew up in South Florida and learned to love reptiles as a child from the Miami Serpentarium.
“The Gourmet Rodent has been in located in Newberry, FL since November 2006. The city of Newberry welcomed our unique business with open arms. Newberry has an aggressive attitude towards bringing in new businesses as well as a progressive attitude towards making accommodations for these new businesses wherever possible. I have never worked with any other municipality where I have had such a direct and open line of communication with my city leaders. The city of Newberry has shown a strong interest in the success of The Gourmet Rodent and has proven they genuinely care about us and our staff. We came to this city looking for a place to do business and we found a home.”
Owner, The Gourmet Rodent