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So Much More

What began nearly 40 years ago as a rural feed store has evolved into a center for pet nutrition and high-quality foods, with newest owner Kris Clawson continuing its mission.




Bridger Animal Nutrition, Bozeman, MT

OWNER: Kris Clawson; URL:; LOCATIONS: 1; INSTAGRAM:; FACEBOOK:; FOUNDED: 1985; AREA: 10,828-square-foot building on 1.45 acres; TOP BRANDS: Steve’s Real Food, Northwest Naturals,, Nulo Pet Food, Nature’s Logic, Champion, Petcurean, Stella & Chewy’s, Oma’s Pride, Fromm Family Foods; EMPLOYEES: 5 fulltime, 8 part-time

WITH ITS TALL tower featuring the red-and-white Purina Feeds emblem, Bridger Animal Nutrition in Bozeman, MT, looks like an old-fashioned feed store. The architects, in fact, based its exterior on an area feed mill that dates back to 1908.

“Some might think, ‘Oh it’s just a feed store,’ but it’s so much more,” owner Kris Clawson says. The business carries pet foods ranging from kibble and canned to the latest in lightly cooked and raw. “We specialize in the science of diet and nutrition, and offer the most current feed solutions for animals. We are constantly adapting our practices as research progresses.”

Founded in 1985, the store now sells 70% to 75% dog and cat products while the remaining 25% to 30% of sales includes those for livestock such as horses, chickens, rabbits and goats. “We used to sell cow cakes and feed,” Clawson recalls. “We have evolved into a high-end dog and cat food store.”

Kris Clawson

Kris Clawson

For Today’s Customers

Helping to fuel Bridger Animal Nutrition’s evolution are the pet parents moving to Bozeman. “People have surged to this area largely because of how beautiful it is, being right at the base of the Bridger mountain range,” Clawson explains. “There is so much outdoor recreation people can do with their pets.”

These residents often occupy former ranchland, which means more companion animals in and around the city and less livestock. She describes the store’s current main customer as educated about nutrition with a desire to feed their pets better and shop local.

To meet that desire, Clawson and her team connect with them on social media. “Our Instagram page is dedicated to the love we have for our pets, the passion we have for their health and wellness, as well as the small funny moments that occur day-to-day here,” she says. The Facebook page gives practical tips. Customers benefit from posts such as “How to Properly Store Your Dog’s Dry Food” and “How to Keep Chickens Warm During Winter” to spotlights on beneficial products, such as using milk thistle for liver support or the many benefits of CBD. “All of our posts are aimed at fostering a welcoming environment that makes our customers feel like they belong and that we don’t just care about their pets, but about them as well.”

In-store, the team creates free rack cards customers can take home. They range in topic from the benefits of bone broth and raw feeding basics to managing cancer in pets.
The business also holds events that appeal to those residents who want to include their pets in activities. “Twice a month, we host a two-hour, storewide 10%-off sale for our customers and offer free beer or wine,” Clawson says. “The first Saturday of every month we host Barks & Beer, where we have chilled local brews from around Bozeman for our customers’ enjoyment while they shop. The third Wednesday of every month we host Wine & Wags, where we offer wine during the sale. Each sale is sponsored by a brand we carry, and we hide a gold star. Whoever finds the gold star during the sale takes home a goodie bag donated by our sponsor.”

Light wood walls and floors continue the feed-store theme.

Light wood walls and floors continue the feed-store theme.

Three Generations of Businesswomen

“She was ahead of her time,” Clawson says, describing the store’s founder, Dr. Marcia Anderson. She was not only an M.D. but a business owner in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, both professions dominated by men at that time. “She never saw herself as a woman with a glass ceiling on her potential, she was a businessperson just like any man. This was refreshing and made for a wonderful mentor for women in business.”

Dr. Anderson started the store as Bridger Feeds at the base of the Bridger Mountains before moving it to where it resides today in Bozeman proper. Bridger Feeds manager Libby Burr bought the business from Dr. Anderson in 2010 and renamed it Bridger Animal Nutrition to reflect its evolving mission.

Burr educated her customer base on the importance of nourishing a pet’s health from the inside out. She strove to give customers the confidence to look at a product label, dissect it and then discern if they wanted to give the product to their pet. The store still holds this value close today.


Clawson gives all of the credit for Bridger Animal Nutrition’s success to the efforts of Burr: “She recognized the need for better nutrition in our animal community long before it was mainstream. Her focus was to ‘Meet every customer where they are at today to help them do better for the health of their animals tomorrow.’ All animals deserve better nutrition and every little bit of improvement helps.”

Clawson worked with Burr directly as store manager for nine years until she took over ownership in January, with Burr continuing on as chief financial officer and lead remedial dietician and nutritionist. Clawson doesn’t have plans to change the store’s mission. “I’m just carrying on the legacy,” she says.

But she does so much more than just carry it on. Clawson holds her own certifications in pet and human nutrition through several organizations. Store operations manager Jordan Woller says about Clawson, “She has been and still is the heartbeat of the store.”

Focus on Nutrition

Customers see Bridger Animal Nutrition’s passion for raw foods in its 22 doors of freezers filled with complete diets for dogs and cats; and bones, livers, necks, hearts and pancreases; plus two walk-in freezers for storage. “Of our dog and cat food sales, it’s probably 35% of the sales,” Clawson shares. Freeze-dried raw makes up at least 10% of the food sales.

Supplements play an important part in the dietary solutions the business offers, as well. Clawson and her team believe that food is the best medicine and that supplements build on good nutrition. “We carry a large variety of supplements: joint health, immunity, CBD, calming products, essential fatty acids, liver support, kidney support, superfoods, vitamins/minerals and more,” she lists. “We believe the right supplements can be powerful in managing disease and disorders within the body.”

To educate customers about these products, team members start with a 12-point module-training program on dog, cat, horse and chicken nutrition. Developed in-house, the content comes from Burr’s own education and experience and gets updated as new research and information become available. “We try to get in a few hours of training for the staff a week,” Clawson says. “And that goes for all aspects of wellness, including nutrition. I do continuing education myself so I can pass it on, too.”

Putting Customers First

“What makes us unique is that we don’t push the sales of products,” Clawson explains. “We truly treat every customer as an individual, listen to their specific concerns regarding their pet, and work to find a supplement or food that fits their pet’s needs as well as their budget and lifestyle.”

For those customers whose pet has a specific health issue, such as a food sensitivity, or who want to take a more holistic approach to their pet’s nutrition, Bridger Animal Nutrition offers in-depth consultations. They can walk into the store and talk to a staff member in the aisle or make an appointment for a private consultation.

The consultations can be ongoing or just a one-and-done, although most continue until the issue resolves. The team loves to watch their customers’ and pets’ journey together. “We offer simple solutions that are inexpensive, such as environmental stress tests, specific supplements, or even changing the type of food or protein the pet may be eating,” Clawson says.

More Than One Store

So what’s next for Bridger Animal Nutrition? As Bozeman continues to grow, the need for high-quality pet food and other products does as well. “I would like to have a second store,” Clawson says, but for now, she remains focused on improving the business and customer experience, increasing sales and staff knowledge. But, in the end, it comes down to nutritious food. That is what’s important to the store, she says, because “that’s what we do. It’s our focus.”

Five Cool Things About Bridger Animal Nutrition

1. WHAT COLOR ARE YOU? All new hires take a color-model test from Insights Discovery. “Everyone has all of the colors inside of them,” Clawson says. “Some colors are stronger than others.” She keeps a chart of the colors and their qualities posted in the breakroom to give team members a better idea of their strengths, depending on their colors. For example, someone with the competitive energy of Fiery Red might be a great negotiator, while one with the caring Earth Green energy may be more patient with customers. It also helps team members understand how to better communicate with each other.

2. FEMALE-FORWARD BUSINESS. All three owners have been women, and currently women make up the entire team. “We’ve had some really cool guys work here,” Clawson says, “but we haven’t had any the last couple of years.” The all-female team places them front and center as a pillar in the Bozeman businesswomen community.

3. SENSE OF HUMOR. Throughout the store and the website, humorous sayings abound. “We don’t care who dies in the movie, so long as the dog lives” and “We had to get rid of the kids, as the cat was allergic” adorn store T-shirts and other items. People come to the store just to buy the funny apparel and suggest other lines to use. “People really resonate with the sayings,” Clawson says. “You know, not everything has to be so serious.”


4. COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT. Every summer, store managers conduct a class for the Heart of the Valley summer camp. “We go in one day a week and just talk about the basics of pet nutrition,” Clawson says. They show real skulls of cats and dogs to demonstrate what their mouths and teeth look like compared to a human’s, plus bring food like kibble, wet and frozen raw foods, and freeze-dried, plus a variety of bowls to teach different aspects of how to feed a dog or cat.

5. I’ve SEEN THAT STORE BEFORE. The 1908 feed mill that architects based their design on for Bridger Animal Nutrition may look familiar. It’s in Robert Redford’s 1992 film, A River Runs Through It, starring a young Brad Pitt. The design has won the store multiple beautification awards.


  • Kat Carbonaro, Astro Loyalty: Their website is awesome and offers extensive resources to help customers learn about the brands they choose to carry. They even have a blog where they share their own tips and pet care knowledge! I love their social media! Their content is real, and features their own pets enjoying and using the products they carry and eating the foods they believe in. This not only demonstrates how to use/feed their products but also, again, shows that they believe in the products they carry. For a business that has been a pillar in their community since 1985, they have mastered how to stay current with the times. So impressive!
  • Nancy Guinn, Dog Krazy: “I love that you color test your employees. I don’t hear of businesses doing that very often, and I think that really helps to find the right team for each business.”
  • Peter Scott, American Pet Products Association: “I like the evolution of the story over the years. The branding is very consistent, and the engagement in the community and driving customers into the store is very good.”
  • Lyn M. Falk, Retailworks, Inc.: “Great story. Good services. Wonderful community giveback. They take good care of their staff (mobile coffee cart in twice a week!).”
  • Missy Limbeck, Pet Palette Distribution: “Love love love this unique building structure and exterior! You can tell that a lot of care was put into the landscaping, as well — it looks like a postcard! Awesome job turning all available merchandising space into dollars.”



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