There’s a philosophy that if you do what you love, money will come to you. For Tony Caltagirone, that love is geckos.
The 33-year-old Mountain resident got his first gecko in June 2012. Within two weeks, he’d purchased another breeding pair. Now, if you include babies, he has about 130.
Caltagirone has turned it into a business. As one of the region’s largest gecko breeders, he runs True North Geckos. First it was out of his basement. Now he has a store at 329 Barton St. E. It’s only open by appointment now, but he hopes to have an open storefront this spring.
“It’s an addiction,” he said. “A lot of people who have crusted geckos will say it’s an addiction. If you have one, you have to get more and more.”
Caltagirone never thought geckos could be a career. It's still not full time – he also works as an analyst at Fortino’s head office in Hamilton. But increasingly, geckos are taking up more of his time. He sells about a dozen a month, with prices ranging from $80 to $200 per gecko.
People are attracted to the colours and the reptile’s temperament, he said.
“Just handling them, they’re very docile,” he said. “You can put them on your hand and they’ll jump from hand to hand.”
Caltagirone’s love of geckos began a year and a half ago. He wanted a dog but he couldn’t have one where he lived. His girlfriend, Vanessa Bozzo, got him a crusted gecko instead.
He was immediately taken by the reptile. He went online and started reading more about them, including breeding possibilities. Within two weeks, he'd purchased a breeding pair from a seller in Welland.
Some of Caltagirone's geckos have names. Some don’t. His favourite TV show is Dexter, and as such, his favourite crested gecko is named Dexter. Some bear the names of other characters on the show.
He sells geckos primarily through Facebook, Kijiji and his website. He also sells them at reptile shows.
Caltagirone isn’t the type to do anything halfway. He’s a motorcycle enthusiast too, and since 2004, he’s owned seven.
Bozzo stands by and watches Caltagirone’s hobby take flight.
“I didn’t think this would happen, that’s for sure,” she said.
“I think they’re cool,” she said. “I’m not into them to the point of obsession, but they’re his passion.”