The Reptile Zoo in Fountain Valley lands reality TV series
Jay Brewer believes he is living the dream.
Later this year, he will add “reality TV star” to his amazing life journey.
Brewer is the founder and owner of the Reptile Zoo in Fountain Valley, which contains hundreds of species of reptiles, from exotic snakes to alligators to tortoises and everything in between.
His larger-than-life personality and fun business has lent itself to millions of followers on social media, especially on TikTok, where he has 20 million followers and the zoo has 12 million more. There never seems to be a dull moment for Brewer, who runs the zoo with the help of his three adult daughters — Laura, Juliette and Andrea — and a staff of about 20.
“Honestly, we have an amazing amount of types of animals for such a small place,” Jay Brewer said. “But we don’t have lions and tigers and bears, things that take huge space. Reptiles, especially snakes, don’t require a lot of space. Most reptiles feel comfortable in a smaller enclosure with the ability to hide and feel safe. As long as they get their food and everything they need, they’re content.”
The zoo has garnered the interest of Roku, which will launch a six-episode reality series titled “Reptile Royalty” later this year. The series will focus on the adventures of the Brewer family and staff, as they care for more than 600 of some of the rarest and most exotic reptiles on Earth.
Jay Brewer, who called himself “58 years old going on 7,” first opened the doors of what was then known as Pet Country in 1988. The space expanded over the years to its current size of 13,000 square feet, and the Reptile Zoo was officially founded in 2009. It is also known as Prehistoric Pets.
Jay and Juliette Brewer have become internet stars and have recently worked with celebrities like Snoop Dogg, Kevin Hart, Diplo and others. To this, Jay gives a hearty laugh.
“When I started, I never thought I could have went this far,” he said. “I mean, 60 million followers between my business account that my daughter runs and mine? That’s weird. They didn’t have internet back then, you know what I mean? It’s just bizarre. From being a poor orphan, that’s just nuts.”
Brewer grew up in Tustin. His adopted mother passed away when he was 4, he said, and when he was 14 his father drank himself to death.
Soon after that, Brewer dropped out of Newport Harbor High, befriended by a man named “Uncle Louie” who took the teen under his wing. He eventually became a commercial fisherman; he had already made good money fishing at the Dory Fishing Fleet in Newport Beach on weekends.
“When I got married [to longtime wife Becky], I decided I didn’t want to be a fisherman because there was a lot of drugs and alcohol,” he said. “I didn’t want it around my kids, and I didn’t necessarily like it myself.”
Working with animals became a passion, which made sense, considering Jay’s childhood.
“This is like a childhood dream in a way,” he said. “I literally would wake up in the morning and go out and catch frogs and lizards, go in irrigation ditches at night. That’s what I liked to do. I would have done other stuff, but when you have no money, you don’t have a lot of options. I enjoyed the wilderness.”
His success story may be compelling, but he said part of what compels him is meeting kids that remind him of himself.
On Thursday morning, Amber Guy of Huntington Beach walked around the zoo with two boys — one 9 months old, one almost 3 years old — that she nannies.
“It’s a hidden gem,” Guy said. “Every time I post, people are like, ‘Where is that?’ … [The kids] love it, especially taking pictures with the snake. I feel like that’s a hit.”
Juliette Brewer, 31, said she is also looking forward to the launch of the Roku show. Though the Brewers already do a lot on social media, it will provide even more insight into the reptile rambunctiousness that goes on behind the scenes.
“If there’s even a moment it goes to his head, which it literally hasn’t, then we’re like, ‘Chill out,’” she said of her father. “He works here constantly, so it’s not like he’s too big now. He just fits it all in, which is really nice. Here at the zoo, people come to visit from all over the world and hope to see either my dad or I, and people just go ballistic when they see him. I think both of us just see it as a way to meet new people.”
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