Neil Padron, founder of Brentwood-based Petland Discounts, died Jan. 14 of bladder cancer. He was 74.
Padron, who grew up in Queens, opened his first store in Glen Oaks in 1965 and later moved the company’s headquarters to Brentwood. The chain initially sold tropical fish and aquatic supplies, said Amy Eisenberg of Dix Hills, Padron’s daughter and the company’s director of public relations and special events. Store offerings later expanded to include pet supplies and fish, birds, small animals and reptiles.
The company has 78 locations throughout the tristate area, including seven on Long Island, Eisenberg said. At its height, Petland had more than 100 locations in the area.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Padron starred in his company’s commercials, which included the slogan: “Petland Discounts: At Petland we care.” He was also the spokesman in later commercials.
His love of pets began with the fish he kept in a tank as a little boy, Eisenberg said. In high school, he worked part-time in a pet shop, she said. While in college in 1965, he borrowed money from his father to open this first tropical fish and aquatic-supply store in Glen Oaks.
Padron, who lived in Dix Hills, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for North Shore Animal League and other, smaller shelters, Eisenberg said. He was also “a huge help” with animal adoptions, she said.
“He was extremely generous, and he was brilliant, very loving and very kind,” she said. “He was really amazing to everybody.”
In 2003, he was the first retailer inducted into the Pet Industry Hall of Fame by the American Pet Products Association, according to the publication Pet Age.
In addition to Eisenberg, Padron is survived by his wife, Joan, and daughter Lisa Sanders, also a Dix Hills resident who is the company’s human resources manager.
A service was held at Gutterman’s Funeral Home in Woodbury on Jan. 15, Eisenberg said. Donations in Padron’s name can be made to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.