New Petland owner likes challenge of having 3,000 pets

Courtesy Samit Darne

Samit Darne never had a pet while growing up in his native India. Now, he is responsible for thousands of them.

Darne recently took over Petland at 4512 S. Broadway Ave. in Tyler.

He was born and raised in Bombay, India. His father worked as a health inspector, while his mother ran a cosmetics business. He grew up with one older brother.

After finishing high school, he moved to Houston, where he studied computer science at the University of Houston, from which he graduated in December 2000.

The 1990s were big on computers and technology, so I thought it was a good field to get into," Darne said. "And I was really good at math."

He then landed a job with a hand-held personal computer company in Houston and served as I just wrote the last scene of my novel. Doing a writing exercise from . #etwrimo #nanowrimo 6,365 words so network manager.

"Then Sept. 11 happened," he said. "The IT market just went south. That's when I got laid off."

He spent two years looking for a job in his field but found nothing. So in 2004, he opened a Marble Slab Creamery on the northwest side of the city.

"One summer, (my wife) and I were at the River Walk in San Antonio," Darne recalled. "We were walking around, and I saw this long line outside a Marble Slab. I thought, ‘Man, this is a cool business to get into.'"

But he quickly found there was more to it than just scooping up ice cream for happy customers.

"It was difficult at first," he said. "I was there long hours — open to close — for almost a year. Then I got the hang of it."

Meanwhile, his wife, Pejal, earned her degree to become an optometrist, and she found a job in Tyler. They moved here in 2007.

The Marble Slab franchise in Tyler happened to be up for sale.

He said, "I thought, ‘I know Marble Slab. Why not buy this one?'"

So he did and still owns it today, and his favorite flavor is praline.

"We don't carry it all the time, but it's a really awesome flavor," Darne said, adding that he likes to mix pecans into it.

He took over Petland in March.

"At first, it was just a business decision," he said. "Just like with Marble Slab, I had no idea how to run a pet store."

Petland Inc., founded in 1967, is an Ohio-based private company, according to the company website. Today, the company has stores nationwide and in Japan, South Africa, China, Canada and Mexico.

Darne celebrated a grand reopening of the Tyler store on Saturday.

He said running Petland is more emotional than he expected, with a store full of adorable animals that need to be cared for.

"It's challenging, but I'm getting the hang of it," he said.

He has taken a particular shine to a yellow Amazon bird, and the feeling is mutual.

"They talk," he said. "One got really attached to me."

Darne named the bird Hari and brought it home as a pet, but Hari wasn't fond of children, so now the bird is back at Petland.

"I never had a pet before," he said. "Now I have 3,000 pets in the store – puppies, bunnies, hamsters, snakes. Snakes!"

Darne, 38, and his wife have two children, ages 3 and 6 months. He met his wife online through a chat room in the late 1990s.

In his spare time, he enjoys playing poker, watching sports and managing his fantasy football team.


Most subjects for this column come from business cards randomly pulled from a briefcase. If you'd like to be featured or know of someone who would make a good feature, just mail the information, or a business card, to Managing Editor Brian Pearson, 410 W. Erwin, Tyler, Texas, 75710, or contact him at


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