• Many Mouths to Feed
  • The 61st Missouri Photo Workshop / Festus & Crystal City, Mo.
  • Theresa Welch is a forty-one-year old mother of seven who lives in Festus, Missouri. Ever since she was a young child growing up on a farm, she has always had a passion for animals. "As a kid, I was always the one who brought sick animals home," she said, "I guess you can say that has carried into adulthood." In December of 2008, Theresa's husband rewarded her passion by providing her with the Christmas gift of a pet shop on Main Street. She named it the Kritter's Den and filled it with more than 1,500 animals ranging from puppies to fish to even tarantulas.

    As the new owner of her family business, Theresa had no way of foreseeing that the following year's economy would be under so much distress. The economic recession of 2009 has made it a challenge for businesses like the Kritter's Den to survive. Nearly one year later, the pet shop represents more a labor of love for Theresa as it has yet to make any profit due to sagging sales.

    To keep expenses low, Theresa is forced to staff the shop herself for every hour it is open throughout the six-day workweek. She arrives each morning at 7:30 am and she leaves for home twelve hours later when the cleaning, feeding and restocking is complete. She also relies heavily on the assistance of her children and various members of her extended family who pitch in after school or in-between jobs. "I would love to hire help but I just can't afford to," she said. "This is now where I live."

    Within the walls of the Kritter's Den, Theresa's motherhood and livelihood intersect. This unique combination creates energy and a pulse that brings the shop to life – making it as alive as the 1,500 animals that reside inside.

    Theresa Welch, owner of the Kritter's Den, uses a broom to sweep the tiled flooring near the front window of her pet shop nearly an hour after closing time at 6pm in Festus, Missouri, Thursday, October 2, 2009. During the hours when the pet shop is open, puppies are displayed in the front window inviting members of the community to enter the store to take a closer look.

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