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All Under One Roof

A Chicago couple builds a business to suit their own needs and (high) expectations.

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Urban Pooch Canine Life Center, Chicago, IL

OWNERS: Ed Kaczmarek, Dan Gaughan;URL: urbanpooch.com; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2009; AREA: 7,100 square feet; EMPLOYEES: 31 full-time, 6 part-time; FACEBOOK: /UrbanPoochChicago; INSTAGRAM: /urbanpooch


LIKE MANY COUPLES, Ed Kaczmarek and Dan Gaughan decided to test the parenting waters by getting a puppy.

“Berwyn literally took over our lives,” Kaczmarek says of their Welsh Terrier, now 11. “He went to puppy daycare and for grooming, and we had to shop at three different pet-supply stores. We got so tired of running around and thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have everything under one roof?”

Such a place didn’t exist in Chicago, IL, in 2007, so the couple decided to build it themselves. They applied for nine Small Business Association loans — during the Great Recession — before a bank finally said yes. Urban Pooch Canine Life Center opened in 2009. It takes home third place in this year’s PETS+ America’s Coolest Stores Contest.

Primary Colors, Industrial Aesthetic

Because Kaczmarek and Gaughan considered Berwyn their baby during the design phase of Urban Pooch, it was only natural to incorporate primary colors. Blue floors run throughout the 90-plus-year-old building, with yellow and red paint coating walls in the daycare and boarding rooms.

Colors also pop in the 1,100-square-foot retail area, but there the couple built upon the space’s vintage urban industrial aesthetic. Brick walls rise to meet exposed beams and ductwork. Local artisan Harry Olson combined boiler piping and railroad-car floorboards for shelving, and local antique dealers helped put together pieces for fixtures.

“Our chew bar, a buffet of metal buckets filled with jerky treats, bones and deer antlers, was installed on a repurposed barn door that hangs from a pulley system connected to the ceiling,” Kaczmarek says. “It might be one of the most unique product displays of any specialty pet-supply store in all of Chicago!”

Clean Air, Clean Floors

In addition to offering supplies, daycare, cage-free boarding and grooming — including self-wash and massage — Kaczmarek and Gaughan wanted to provide the healthiest, most pleasant environment possible for pets and their parents.

“We noticed that some of the places we took Berwyn to as a puppy smelled like urine and bleach,” Kaczmarek says. “We wanted Urban Pooch to be clean and smell good, for clients to feel comfortable leaving their child with us without worrying.”

They achieve exactly that thanks to advanced HVAC and air purification systems with triple HEPA filters and UV lighting to kill airborne bacteria and viruses. Florock, an antimicrobial and nonslip sealant, covers all of the floors.

“It’s made to withstand acid in an industrial environment. It’s expensive, but one of the best investments we made. Nothing can get into our floors.”

Client Focus

While Kaczmarek and Gaughan quickly learned how to care for Berwyn, neither had experience in the pet industry. Kaczmarek worked as global director of innovation and emerging technology at snack maker Mondelez, and Gaughan was assignment editor at a local CBS station. They turned to consultant Linda Welch, owner of Dogs by Day and Night, for help.

“We flew our staff to Washington, DC, to work at her facility,” Kaczmarek says. “It saw 100 dogs a day. What better way for them to gain experience than to train there for a week? Two of her staffers came back with us and continued training.”

Today, owners and management teach pet care processes and customer service skills to new employees during trial periods. Above all, they instill the company philosophy that clients and pups are members of the Urban Pooch family.

“We greet everyone who comes in and introduce ourselves,” says retail and purchasing manager Brittany West. “We get to know them and learn about their lives. It’s important that our clients feel the love we have for them and their dogs.”

Among the many practices that exemplify this approach are grooming appointments that keep dogs with staff members at all times, not alone in a cage waiting for the next step. Pups whose owners are not ready to pick them up join a daycare pack, with clients able to pay by the hour.

“They can get their nails done or go grocery shopping and don’t have to pay for a full or half-day,” West says.

Owners and management also welcome feedback from clients, on products, services and even the staff themselves.

“They feel comfortable coming to us because they are part of our family and we are part of theirs,” she says.

As to whether raising Berwyn has led to any human kids, Kaczmarek says not yet.

“Our Urban Pooch facilities became our children!”

The couple opened Urban Pooch Training & Fitness Center nearby in 2015.


Judges’ Comments

Phil Chang: I like the experiential moments that you’ve worked hard to incorporate into your business. The chew buckets are creative and lay out nicely — they add a great and unique design element to the store.

Ruth Mellergaard: This is a beautiful, original space. Way to go, guys, on changing up your merchandise regularly. You understand retail!

Tom Crossman: Warm but sleek store interior. Feels very clean and hip.

Jamie Migdal: Urban Pooch really gets it. They’re always improving on their services and making things better for their human and canine clients, and I love to see this kind of dedication in a pet business.


PHOTO GALLERY (12 IMAGES) 

Five Cool Things About Urban Pooch Canine Life Center    

1. DOG TV: One-way windows look into the daycare and boarding rooms, allowing clients to watch their pups at play without being spotted. “We want to be transparent about how we care for their kids,” Kaczmarek says, “and we want them to see all of the love and fun that they experience.”

2. TEARRIBLES: The owners love introducing innovative new toys. So much so that they bought 160 Tearribles during its Kickstarter campaign, making Urban Pooch clients first in the world to get them. They were gone in just weeks!

3. PICK-A-DISCOUNT: Clients literally pick their own discount from a box, 5 to 30 percent, on an entire purchase. Held at various times during the year, the promotion brings a 40 percent revenue bump over two days.

4. HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Each employee gets a $100 bonus and a cake on their birthday.

5. PLAYTIME EXPRESS: Urban Pooch offers pickup and drop-off service seven days a week. The van features rubber-coated cages and soft blankets for a safe and comfy ride.


Online Extra: Q&A with Ed Kaczmarek

One book:

The Artist’s Way

One gadget:

My iPhone X

One plane ticket:

Paris — such an amazing experience!

Best advice ever received:

Don’t Lie, ever!

Advice for a new store owner:

Enjoy the experience of connecting with parents and their dogs, don’t worry so much, it doesn’t have to be perfect! Push for excellence, assess your progress each week, make any necessary changes and forge ahead with a smile on your face and in your heart!

If I’d known to live in the moment then, life would have been a whole lot easier.

What superpower would you like to have?

Teleportation

What’s the toughest thing you’ve ever had to do professionally?

Eliminate a position/person.

If your store were on fire, what’s the one thing you’d save?

My amazing employees.

When I meet people, the first thing I notice about them is…

If they make eye contact with me.

Current career goal:

To Grow Urban Pooch into additional units across multiple cities.

I am most frustrated when …

People don’t work hard.

I am happiest when …

I am connecting with dogs and their parents.

 

Pamela Mitchell is the senior editor at PETS+. She works from her home office in Houston, TX, with Spot the senior Boston Terrier as her assistant.

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America's Coolest

School’s in Session for Dog Food Buyers at Maxwell & Molly’s Closet

There’s no sitting behind the counter at this New Jersey store.

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Maxwell & Molly’s Closet, Newton, NJ

OWNER: Bonnie Bitondo; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2007; AREA: 1,600 square feet; EMPLOYEES: 2 full-time,3 part-time; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/maxwellmollyscc


PET PARENT. DETECTIVE. Teacher.

Bonnie Bitondo considers herself all of these before business owner. That philosophy informs every aspect of her pet boutique and grooming salon, Maxwell & Molly’s Closet in Newton, NJ.

“If people know you have their best interests at heart, both their pet and their pocketbook,” she says, “then the register takes care of itself.”

And it has. Since opening in 2007, Bitondo has grown her store from 350 to 1,600 square feet. She even added a second location in 2010.

History, Handshakes and Help

Maxwell the Yorkie came into Bitondo’s life in 2005, as an anniversary present from her husband, Rick. Having never before raised such a small puppy, she went in search of advice.

“The first pet store I walked into, with Maxwell in my arms, the owner was sitting behind the counter,” Bitondo recalls. “I said, ‘This is Max. I want to feed him the best food you have.’ He didn’t even look at my dog, just said that food was on Aisle 2 and that they were all the same.”

With no knowledge of pet nutrition and no help from the owner, she settled on kibble with a Yorkie on the bag.

“By the time I got home, I was livid. I didn’t appreciate being ignored. I didn’t appreciate receiving no information. And I was mad at myself for buying food based on packaging.”

Bitondo was also nearing retirement from teaching. She decided then that the next stage of her life would involve opening a store that treats pet parents the way she wished she had been treated that day.

Two years later, Bitondo used her retirement savings to buy the connected buildings that would house Maxwell & Molly’s Closet. She started in the smaller of the two — hence the store’s name, which also includes her second Yorkie — restoring the 1910 structure’s original tin ceiling, installing crystal chandeliers and adding an old-fashioned awning. Antique furnishings became fixtures. The transformation won a Newton Chamber of Commerce Beautification Award.

Bitondo expanded into the larger 1920s building in 2010, opening the door in between, repainting the exteriors to complement each other and adding signage to connect them visually.

“Our physical appearance, inside and out, says ‘We think your pet and you are special.’”

And she and her staff do.

“There’s no sitting behind the counter at my store. We come around and greet every customer with a handshake.”

They then employ what Bitondo calls “kind questioning.”

“We say, ‘Tell us about your pets. Is there something specific you’re looking for? Or are you just browsing? It shows that we’re interested in them. If they’re browsing, we respect that, but check in every five or 10 minutes to see if they need help.”

Product Private Eye

When pet parents do want guidance, they learn first that Bitondo has done extensive research on every product in the store.

“We don’t carry anything that I wouldn’t give to my own dogs or cats,” she says.

Her sleuthing skills developed early, thanks to growing up the daughter of a detective. “I try to use everything he taught me.”

When it comes to the edibles she carries, Bitondo scrutinizes food and treat ingredient lists and sources, and “I look at the companies themselves. How many recalls they’ve had. Where the foods are made. If the factories have had recalls. I follow the facts. It takes time and energy, but I can tell customers that I feel comfortable giving these products to my pets and to theirs.”

The community appreciates such thorough research, and for that and many other reasons, Maxwell & Molly’s Closet has been named “Best Pet Store” by New Jersey Herald readers for the past three years.

School is in Session

Bitondo doesn’t simply wait for customers to arrive and ask for advice. The former teacher draws them in with smart signage in her windows: “So you think you can’t afford premium pet food, come in for a conversation and free samples.”

Those who take Bitondo up on the offer get a math lesson. She asks how much their dog or cat weighs, then compares the feeding guidelines of less expensive, lower-protein foods to those of her more expensive, meat-first products.

“They see that the cost difference greatly narrows because they feed less. That helps their pocketbook, and it helps the digestive system of their animal as less food goes through it.”

She also hosts and promotes a variety of fun educational events. “Soup Er Bowl” in February provided information about and free samples of Primal Bone Broth, with staff serving pups while their humans enjoyed their own soup, homemade by Bitondo herself.

 

PHOTO GALLERY (10 IMAGES)

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Five Cool Things About Maxwell and Molly’s Closet

1. HOLISTIC GROOMING: Bonnie Bitondo didn’t plan on offering grooming at her store, but when Paulina Riofrio became available three years ago, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity. The two share a vision for grooming that includes natural products and private appointments. Riofrio uses reiki, aromatherapy and crystal healing to keep pets calm and comfortable.

2. WEIGHT TRACKER: Maxwell & Molly’s Closet has its own veterinary scale, on which pets are weighed. Losses and gains get entered into the customer’s profile, as do any health and behavioral issues. Combined with purchase history, staff use this information to suggest rotating proteins or adding supplements.

3. MEMBERSHIP PERKS: Once customers spend $200 at the store, they become members of the Platinum Paw Club and get a 5 percent discount on all products going forward. There are 5,000 members between both locations.

4. GIVING BACK: Maxwell & Molly’s Closet provides pet food to area homeless people through Family Promise. “We realized that these individuals and families were giving up their pets or living in cars or tents so they wouldn’t have to,” Bitondo says. “We had to step in and help these people who had already lost so much.” Manufacturers help with donations, as do customers who put money in a designated “house” next to the register.

5. FREE DELIVERY: Purchases $50 and higher qualify for free delivery if within an hour of the store. Rick Bitondo drives the store van, which features the couple’s dogs running on a colorful wrap. Bonnie’s husband will even place frozen items inside a customer’s freezer upon request. The store also offers curbside pickup of orders.

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America's Coolest

This New Jersey Store Rivals Public Aquariums

Fish lovers school up 
in a New Jersey store that rivals public aquariums.

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Absolutely Fish, Clifton, NJ

URL: 
absolutelyfish.com; OWNER
: D. Patrick Donston; OPENED 
FEATURED STORE: 2000; YEAR 
FOUNDED:1999; SQUARE FEET: 4,850; EMPLOYEES: 23 full-time, 11 part-time; FACEBOOK: /absolutelyfish; INSTAGRAM: /absolutelyfish


ABSOLUTELY FISH STANDS OUT among the boxy, earth-toned buildings astride U.S. Route 46, with its ocean-themed muraled façade, it beckons commuters that something unique lies within.

Patrick Donston opened his store in 2000, and it’s become a beacon for fish geeks from New York City and North Jersey, hobbyists looking for a wide selection of aquatic livestock, aquacultured coral and name-brand aquarium gear.

Attendees at a recent coral show in New York City, for example, carved out some time to visit Absolutely Fish, with some heard to say that the store’s coral selection surpassed that of the show.

It is this broad selection of aquatic livestock coupled with an exceptionally well-trained and knowledgeable staff that puts Absolutely Fish in a league of its own, Donston believes.

Schools of Fish

When people first walk in Absolutely Fish, what jumps out are the “rows and rows of aquariums filled with different fish” and another 2,500 gallons devoted to corals and coral frags (short for fragments; these reproduce asexually, reducing the need to break wild reefs apart).

“Holy mackerel — pardon my pun — but there’s a lot of fish,” Donston quips.

Absolutely Fish has several themed aquariums and one of the more interesting setups is the CARES (Conservation, Awareness, Recognition, Encouragement and Support) Preservation Program tank. It is a freshwater planted tank that mimics a tropical tributary habitat and is stocked with CARES fish (endangered fish listed at caresforfish.org).

“We were the first CARES store in the United States,” Donston says. “You get the feel right away of what we are about.”

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Getting Schooled

Donston, who describes himself as a teacher at heart, literally wrote the manual — several times over, in fact — on how to develop diamonds in the rough into “professional aquarists.”

“My training protocol has been something that has been developed and worked through over the past 18 years,” he says. “My people are not schooled to be fish slingers. Even if you are a teenager and in high school and working for me part time, I’m schooling you to be a professional aquarist.”

Stores err, Donston explains, by getting hung up hiring only the most experienced people.

“We look for passionate people who love animals. That’s all I care about,” he says. “I’ve got to see the flicker in your eye, the gleam, the smile on your face, and if I can sense that through the interview, I’m going to hire that person.”

Passion is innate; the rest can be taught, and teach it Donston does.

New employees are expected to work through their training manuals methodically; they receive on-the-job training from more seasoned employees.

They often round out the workday by joining Donston for classroom sessions, which include everything from water quality to planted aquaria, compatibility of species, servicing aquariums, talking to clients, customer service and more.

In the end, it all leads to exemplary customer service and high customer satisfaction.

Absolutely Fish provides a platform to “educate and provide services for successful aquatic animal care and captivity” and to “inspire and connect” people “to oceans and freshwater waterways, with an emphasis on conservation.”

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“That’s what I think is truly unique about our service that sets us apart from box stores or from other places,” Donston says.

Environmental Stewards

Donston and his team champion a major aquatic conservation project annually.

The 2015 Nielsen Global Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability found environmental consciousness to be important for about three out of four millennials and more than half of boomers when considering a business to shop at.

“Every year, we try and get behind something and put our money where our mouth is,” Donston says.

That might include $15,000 raised to track hammerhead sharks in the Caribbean, or $20,000 for a reef ball in the Turks and Caicos.

“People like to support us because they say, ‘You might be a little more, but I know you are trying to do things for the environment.’”

Other projects include $15,000 to the Great Bay Terrapin Project to build fences along the Jersey Shore to keep endangered terrapins (a brackish water turtle) from getting run over.

For its work, Absolutely Fish was granted a special permit to display an endangered terrapin in one of its tanks for educational purposes only.

“We are the only store in New Jersey that actually has a Great Bay terrapin,” Donston says.

Three steps in the door and even the most jaded aquarist will be hooked on Absolutely Fish.

PHOTO GALLERY (13 IMAGES)

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Five Cool Things About Absolutely Fish

1. EARLY INSPIRATION: As a child of the 1970s, Donston got his early inspiration from television naturalists Jacques Cousteau and Marlin Perkins, hosts of The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.

2. PAINTING THE TOWN: The eye-catching mural of an Indo-Pacific reef adorning the front exterior of Absolutely Fish was designed and painted by Johnny Vega, an artist and longtime Absolutely Fish customer.

3. LOCAL LIVESTOCK: Absolutely Fish captive produces more than 60 species of hard and soft corals, four species of clownfish, 25 species of freshwater fish and live foods at its 5,000-square-foot aquaculture facility in nearby Paterson. “We believe in harvesting locally, reducing emissions with less shipping of wild-collected fauna,” Donston says.

4. INCENTIVIZED LEARNING: All the younger staff own home fish tanks, which they are encouraged to have so they can learn about keeping fish. An employee incentive program called “Rico rupels,” named after the manager who started it, allows employees to earn faux currency that can be used for in-store purchases, used tanks and equipment, and lunch or gift cards.

5. TO A “T”: Absolutely Fish began its Midnight Madness sale in 2000; the event grew in popularity to where the line wrapped around the building and the wait to get in topped two hours. In 2013, the name was abbreviated to MM sale, as it outgrew its midnight slot and became a daytime event on Saturday and Sunday. Each MM sale is immortalized with a T-shirt; coincidentally, the MM sale for 2018 is MMXVII — the Roman numerals for 2018 — which appear on this year’s shirt.

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ONLINE EXTRA: Q&A with Patrick Donston

Most significant mentor and why:
Rick Preuss of Preuss Pets (Lansing, MI). He truly operates a Pet Shop the way we should all be doing it; with integrity, passion, compassion for the animals, and respect for his team and all who works with him. He is a true level 5 leader.

Favorite Business Book:
It’s Not What You Sell; It’s What You Stand For by Roy Spence Jr.

Favorite Book:
The Dragon Behind The Glass by Emily Voigt

Advice for a new store owner:
Don’t do it to get rich, do it to become enriched.

What’s the toughest thing you’ve ever had to do professionally?
Part ways with a manager of eight years.

Favorite Film:
Philomena

Best vacation ever:
Bay of Fundi, Big Sur California Drive, and Ireland — Connemara

Favorite job at work that doesn’t involve customers:
Conducting classes on fish keeping to my new employees

If I weren’t a pet business owner, I’d be:
A spiritual adviser

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America's Coolest

Yes, They Can: A Washington, DC, Store Bucks the Conventional and Leads the Way in Sustainability

A Washington, DC, store bucks the conventional and leads the way in sustainability.

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The Big Bad Woof,Washington, DC

URL: thebigbadwoof.com; OWNERS: Julie Paez and Pennye Jones-Napier; YEAR FOUNDED: 2005; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2017; AREA: 3,900 square feet; EMPLOYEES: 6 full-time, 5 part-time; FACEBOOK: facebook.com//bbwoof; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com//woofdelivers


IT ISN’T EASY being green. Julie Paez and Pennye Jones-Napier heard this countless times while preparing to open their pet-supply store in Washington, DC. It was 2005, and the eco-friendly business model — to source responsibly and to operate sustainably — was not yet common in the industry.

“‘You can’t run a store like that. You’ll never make any money,’” Paez recalls hearing at trade shows. “Being very stubborn people, we said, ‘Yes, we can.’”

They did and continue to do so, with The Big Bad Woof helping to set the standard for green pet businesses in this country.

Reduce, Reuse & Recycle

Named in honor of their four wolf hybrids, the store opened in the city’s Old Takoma neighborhood. It thrived during 2007’s pet food recalls for melamine contamination.

“People came in, hysterical, asking what could they feed their dogs that wouldn’t kill them,” Paez says. “I’m very proud of the fact that we carefully select our foods and none were recalled.”

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The Big Bad Woof expanded to a second location, in Hyattsville, MD, four years later. Complete with green design by award-winning Travis Price Architects, it became the first U.S. benefit corporation. Businesses with this legal structure pledge to balance profit with positive impact on the environment and society. The store also obtained B Corp certification from auditing body B Lab.

In late 2016, Paez and Jones-Napier decided to trade serious parking problems at their second location and limited square footage at their first for a more easily accessible and larger space in Old Takoma. They worked with the landlord to gut the 1920s building and to install eco-friendly features such as the 100 solar panels that provide its power and two energy-efficient Big Ass Fans.

The current store opened in early 2017. It spans 3,900 square feet, with 3,000 dedicated to retail and the rest for owner, e-commerce and shipping offices. Many elements from the Hyattsville design — industrial chic meets Mother Nature — carried over.

Red paint covers back walls as well as exposed ductwork and other metal, providing pops of color against white walls and unfinished concrete floors. Fixtures feature reclaimed wood and recycled materials, and the checkout desk has as its top an 11-foot piece of wood felled, split and finished locally. The 25-foot-apothecary made the trip as well.

“We’re known for having a lot of supplements, herbals and homeopathic products, and can advise on how to use them safely,” Jones-Napier says. She leads their sales along with team member Darthanyia Leonard, who gained her experience with natural products working at Whole Foods Market. They regularly work with and get referrals from local integrative veterinarians.

Practice Modern Sustainability

Not only do Paez and Jones-Napier keep the environment in mind when sourcing, looking for local, regional and/or eco-friendly products to order, they also embrace the expanded definition of sustainability that includes having a positive social impact. The Big Bad Woof in Old Takoma has benefit corporation status, with Green America certification and auditing.

Honest Pet Products is among the many lines that help the store meet such standards. The Green Bay, WI, company employs disabled people to make its dog and cat toys. It also outsources through Snow Leopard Trust, which provides Mongolian communities with sustainable income opportunities in an effort to reduce poaching.

“We’re always looking for these kinds of businesses to support, ones that will resonate with our customers as well,” Jones-Napier says, referring to the neighborhood’s progressive leanings.

Paez adds, “There’s always been this very strong emphasis on making our community a better place,” pointing to the store being a Hungry Harvest pickup location as an example of a local environmental and social sustainability effort. The program takes produce about to go into the waste stream — for being off-size, off-color, not pretty, overproduced or overpurchased — and offers it as donations to those in need or at a reduced cost.

The owners appreciate that their customers got from day one what many in the pet industry did not.

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PHOTO GALLERY (10 IMAGES)

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Five Cool Things About  The Big Bad Woof

1. SOME (MANY) LIKE IT RAW: The store has 13 front-door freezers and a walk-in for its raw offerings. Pet food makes up 55 percent of sales, with raw accounting for 30 percent of that. “I’m just astounded at how much raw food we go through,” Paez says. “We turn it over so quickly. Customers only buy their raw from us because it’s always fresh.”

2. NO MORE CLAMSHELLS: The owners regularly give feedback to manufacturers about packaging and shipping that serves no purpose and harms the environment. “It’s a waste. It’s not biodegradable. It adds cost to shipping,” Jones-Napier says. “We tell them, ‘Don’t ship in a clamshell.’”

3. WOOF PANTRIES: Through Think Local First D.C., customers can pick up their online orders at one of eight other area businesses. Options include a pet grooming salon, veterinarian’s office, and even a brewery or hardware store. The free service helps to support local businesses while increasing customer convenience. Jones-Napier loves the program so much, she serves on its board.

4. VET VISITS: In addition to manufacturer reps, the owners invite integrative veterinarians to speak at their staff meetings. These DVMs share what issues commonly affect their patients — from digestive problems to fleas and ticks — and advise when natural treatments are an option.

5. WOOF PACK: While the original four-pack of wolf hybrids have all passed, Paez and Jones-Napier have a full house of pets. Mixed-breed Zora, pit bull YaYa-Zen and Siberian Husky Atticus share space with kitties Samson and Figaro. Atticus has been a store pet since he was 12 weeks old.

 

ONLINE EXTRA: Q&A with Pennye Jones-Napier

One book
Bearing Witness by Bernie Glassman

One website
www.kiva.com

One gadget
iPhone

One plane ticket
Dharamsala

Favorite business book
Radical Candor by Kim Scott

Favorite book
Six of One by Rita Mae Brown

Best advice ever given
If you believe food is medicine, then we can help heal this issue.

Advice for a new store owner
Hire good people and make it worthwhile for them to stay.

If I’d known more about finances…
Then, life would have been a whole lot easier.

I drive a Prius. If I could choose any car…
It would be 1950-1960 manual pick-up truck.

What’s the best customer service you’ve ever experienced?
Disney Resorts – the mission shines through every cast member from the accommodations to the parks.

Tell me about your perfect day.
Start with a workout or swim first thing, then head to the barns to saddle up and head off for a long ride.

What’s the toughest thing you’ve ever had to do professionally?
Close a store that was underperforming.

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If your store were on fire, what’s the one thing you’d save?
Our customers and staff if they were in danger.

Favorite film
Being There

Best vacation ever
Africa

Favorite job at work that doesn’t involve customers
Selecting new foods and inventory

If I weren’t a pet business owner…
I’d be a anti-poaching officer.

Current life goal:
To have time to travel and see friends and family more often.

I am happiest when…
I am working in the emergency shelters.

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