Reptiles Are the New Tenants at a Strip Mall in Enfield

The new tenants at  132 South Road in Enfield are cold-blooded and have scaly skin.

The first time I called Brian Kleinman at his new place of business, he couldn’t come to the phone because he was busy moving an alligator to its 6000 gallon concrete pool.

By the time I caught up with him a few weeks later, the alligator, now accustomed to its new home, had been joined by a variety of tortoises and turtles moseying around their open displays in the main exhibit hall of the Riverside Reptiles Education Center in Enfield.  Located at 132 South Road, the site which, through the last 50 years has operated as a supermarket, rental equipment supplier, and day care center, is still in the process of being renovated into its most unique enterprise yet: a living classroom meant to educate people about how to better understand and appreciate snakes, lizards, crocodiles, turtles, and tortoises.

Brian has long sought a “home” for the cold-blooded species he takes on the road to schools, libraries, and parks in outreach programs. “Now I can take all the animals out of my house and my wife can have her basement back,” says Brian who grew up in Barkhamsted in the 80s and 90s. “We didn’t have any malls nearby, so I hung out in 6000 acres of state forest.” Summer camps at Roaring Brook Nature Center in Canton led him to major in biology at Franklin Pierce College in New England.

With all creatures, great and small, to choose from, what led Brian to focus his life’s work on cold-blooded, scaly reptiles? “I’m fond of animals that are misunderstood,” says Brian. He adds, “There’s nothing like this center in 150 miles. We have more reptiles than the Bronx Zoo.”

Brian hopes to open the reptilian nature center to the public sometime in April. By then the second phase of his plan should be well underway– outdoor enclosures for the tortoises.

Brian Kleinman, owner of the Riverside Reptile Education Center in Enfield, updates his Facebook followers on the progress of his work with Napoleon the lizard on his shoulder.

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