Connect with us

America's Coolest

America’s Coolest Stores 2017 Honorable Mentions

Meet the honorable mentions!

mm

Published

on

Bubbly Paws / St. Louis Park, MN

This upscale doggie spa pampers pups, but it also takes excellent care of its employees and animals in need. Staffers can win the “Extra Bubbly” customer service award, complete with a gift card, and fundraisers throughout the year help a variety of causes — Bubbly Paws donated $15,000 to pet rescues alone in 2016.

 

Maxwell and Molly’s Closet / Newton, NJ

The Paw Club at this store and grooming salon helps make it a standout. The program tracks each pet member’s health and behavioral issues to make customized product recommendations. There’s even a Platinum status after $200 in purchases, which earns the pet parent a 5 percent discount for life.

 

Advertisement

Camp Canine / New York, NY

To make up for its limited space in the heart of Manhattan, the luxury grooming salon, doggie daycare and pet boarding facility gets creative. Dogs and cats can go for walks in nearby Central Park, and kitties have their own 73rd Street viewing window. There’s even a room just for fetch! Camp Canine also regularly fosters rescue dogs.

 

Dee-O-Gee / Bozeman, MT

Dee-O-Gee owners Josh and Holly Allen believe in recycling. Holly uses her vet tech experience to advise customers on a variety of topics, including pet nutrition. The store, grooming salon and daycare carry products made of recycled materials. And don’t forget shop dog Jericho, who the Allens joke is recycled, too.

 

Advertisement

Odyssey Pets / Dallas, TX

Everything is bigger in Texas, and Odyssey Pets is no exception. It spans 10,365 square feet and offers only the highest-quality supplies for dogs, cats and fish, as well as boarding, training and grooming. There’s even a walk-in shower for larger pups and a big outdoor run for playtime. Smaller creatures are welcome, too, with an adoptable cat always serving as the store pet.

 

Shop Dog Boutique / Sioux Falls, SD

Customers are often surprised at how long they spend at this pet store. The welcoming atmosphere, regular arrival of new products (including items handmade by artisans) and ever-changing merchandising keep them shopping. They also don’t want to leave without having their pup pose for a Cute Customer Alert on Shop Dog’s Instagram page.

 

Advertisement

The Feed Bag Pet Supply / Mequon, WI

Owner Mark Haslam believes that proper nutrition, grooming, play and training are the foundations for a healthy pet, and his store offers them all. Named Small Business of the Year, The Feed Bag Pet Supply also places a priority on helping those in need — it’s Fairy Dog-Mother Project keeps the local pet food pantry stocked, delivering 600-plus pounds each month.

 

WOOF! WOOF! Pet Boutique & Biscuit Bar / Bristol, RI

Dogs love to visit this treat destination. There are 50 different kinds of locally made goodies, including biscuits, cakes and cookies. Natural chews and bones are a hit, as are frozen treats in the summer, which pups can enjoy on the shady deck out back. Not to worry, Woof! Woof! also caters to kitties with catnip and other feline treats.

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.

Advertisement

FEATURED VIDEO

CANDACE D'AGNOLO

How to Make Tons of Sales With Facebook Live

Catch the replay of this PETS+ Live! Lunch & Learn webinar hosted by Candace D’Agnolo of Pet Boss Nation. This episode featured Candace expanding on her May PETS+ column “How Pet Businesses Can Profit From Facebook Live.”

Promoted Headlines

America's Coolest

Meet the Judges of the PETS+ America’s Coolest Stores Contest

Full contest results will be announced July 29.

mm

Published

on

Jane Harrell is president of ‘cause Digital Marketing and co-owner of Working With Dog, and has spent the last 16 years working with pet businesses to find simple, scalable marketing solutions that work so they can focus on what matters most — helping pets and the people who care about them. causedigitalmarketing.com

 

Kristen Levine is regarded as one of the foremost pet marketing experts in the U.S. with more than 25 years of experience. She’s developed a Pet Credible Influencer Program for brands and is president at FWV Fetching, an integrated marketing firm that services pet-focused companies, veterinary businesses and consumer brands. She lives on a small farm with miniature donkeys Izzy and Willow and her rescue dog and cat, Chilly and Olivia. Contact her at: klevine@fwv-us.com.

Beke LUBEACH serves as general manager for DOGTV, the first channel designed to relax and entertain dogs. Prior to that, Lubeach worked on sales and marketing strategy with small- to mid-size businesses in the pet space as the principal for Dog Bone Marketing Solutions. She has worked to develop consumer sales promotions with Malone Advertising, agency of record for Kimberly Clark products, and spent 20 years in professional sports and media. Lubeach held positions with Super Bowl Host Committees XXXII and XXXIV, Anaheim Angels Baseball and Ducks Hockey, along with eight years at Cox Communications and the San Diego Padres Baseball broadcast. Her focus is in developing strategic partnerships with businesses, both in and out of the pet industry. She has a rescue dog, Payton and always in her heart, Jake, the dog that brought her into the pet space.

Leel Michelle is the founder of Bow Wow Beauty Shoppe in San Diego, CA, which took top honors in the 2018 America’s Coolest Stores Contest. Following a career in corporate retail management and corporate amusement park management, Michelle was inspired by her own pets to create brands that utilized her skills, creativity and passion to build memorable businesses. Follow her at “The Art of Pet Retailing for Groomers” and Facebook group “Pet Boutiques.”

Beth Miller is founder of Wagtown, a national nonprofit organization that helps communities become more authentically and responsibly dog-friendly. Her background of 30-plus years of brand management, advertising, merchandising, point-of-sale, and growth and retention strategies gives her a keen eye for success in the pet space. wagtown.org

Continue Reading

America's Coolest

 The Green K9: A Recessionary Tale That Ended in Success

Success ultimately came to The Green K9 after a rocky start.

mm

Published

on

The Green K9, Mount Dora, FL

OWNERS: Marni and Paul Lewis; URL:thegreenk9.com ; FOUNDED: 2010; OPENED FEATURE STORE: 2012; EMPLOYEES: 13 full-time, 3 part-time ; AREA: 7,200 square feet; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/thegreenk9; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/thegreenk9


In 2008, MARNI AND Paul Lewis sold their pet resort in Davie, FL. It was the first facility of its kind in the region and was highly successful.

The couple moved north to Mount Dora, where they planned to build another pet resort on 9 acres of land they had purchased. The project was well under way when the Great Recession hit.

“After we had spent all of our money, the bank cancelled a week before closing,” Marni says of their construction loan. “It was either file for bankruptcy or make it work.”

Restart Small, Expand with Demand

Paul and Marni Lewis tackle product ordering together, but most days customers will find him on the sales floor consulting on food and her in back as a groomer. She also handles merchandising.

Two years later, they opened a 1,200-square-foot store and day care instead, in nearby Tavares, where rents were lower. The Green K9 initially focused on healthy products, bathing and play.

“There was no doggie day care in the area. People didn’t even know what that was. We had to sell it from the ground up again. We had to introduce them to organic and eco-friendly pet products,” Marni says. “We started small to see if people would come, and they did. Once we got up to 26 day care dogs, I said, ‘I can’t do it anymore here.’”

In 2012, with funding from a customer-turned-investor, the couple moved their business to its originally intended location in Mount Dora. They hired their first employees and added grooming and overnight boarding.

Advertisement

The 7,200-square-foot building features retail and reception up front. Green touches run through its interior design — bamboo lines the reception desk, with an aluminum sign displaying the store logo of a dog jumping over the Earth. Displays use fixtures made from recycled materials. Light blue and tan cover the walls, where large photos of dogs hang.

Products carried, such as West Paw, Aussie Naturals and BecoPets, prove healthy for the planet and pets alike. The grooming department uses and sells Nootie, EarthBath and NaturVet. Marni and Paul look for lines made in the U.S.A., but will go global for certain manufacturers.

“I like finding handmade, fair-trade products,” she says, adding that offering unique products also helps them compete. “We have to be different to stay a step ahead of the online retailers and big chains.”

All-Inclusive Rates, Personal Touches

The couple’s approach to day care and boarding also gives The Green K9 a competitive edge. While some services are considered add-ons, their rates include hourly relief during the day and group play. Yards behind the building, previously an appliance store, have puppy pools, climbing structures and grassy, sandy soil that means no muddy paws. Overnight guests who do not play well with others get the same number of outings, just one-on-one with a staff member.

Dogs get grouped by size, age and energy level, and because of the facility’s design and square footage, extra-small, small, high-energy medium, low-energy large and high-energy large get their own spaces. Extra-small pups even get to hang out in the staff kitchen.

Adding to the overall warmth are waterproof vinyl floors that look like wood and that have a softer feel than the concrete found in the retail area.

“It’s comfortable on their elbows when they lay on it,” Marni says.

Advertisement

The Green K9’s spacious 35 boarding suites also feature the flooring, which makes cleanup easy as it’s nonporous. Staff disinfect each suite daily, providing a freshly washed blanket for each Kuranda bed. Glass fronts keep dogs from feeling isolated.

Train & Retain Staff

While Paul served in the U.S. Army and worked for the U.S. Postal Service prior to joining the pet industry, Marni has been a part of it most of her life. At 5 years old, she was competing as a junior handler, showing the German Shepherd Dogs her mother bred and trained. The family also owned a boarding kennel in Maryland.

Marni drew from her vast experience when putting together hiring and training practices for The Green K9. Each applicant gets a paid working interview, during which they do what they would on the job. A leader guides and supervises the candidate, and then the entire team discusses their performance.

“Staff determines who we should hire,” she says. “They ask, ‘Did they take direction well? Or did they have a poor attitude?’ They choose their co-workers, which leads to an invested, cohesive group.”

It also results in high retention of employees, which can be a challenge when hiring from the Millennial workforce. Comprehensive training and ongoing development helps as well.

“All of my leaders have been personally trained by me. People learn so much better with an experienced coach by their side.”

PHOTO GALLERY (7 IMAGES)

{{gallery_holder}}

Five Cool Things About The Green K9

1. LOYAL CUSTOMERS: Ellie the Poodle has such a good time at The Green K9 that her owner, Seth Ellis, became an investor. He covered 100 percent of buildout costs for the current location. And Charlie the Goldendoodle’s owner gifted $10,000 for product purchases.

2. ECO-FRIENDLINESS: The Green K9’s business vehicle is a wrapped Nissan Leaf. Shoppers can choose between biodegradable bags made of cornstarch or reusable ones.

3. HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Staff love to help dogs celebrate their birthdays. The $50 party package includes five or more hours of day care, a K9 Granola Factory cake, treats, party hats and bandanas for the special guest and their play pals. Staff takes photos to send home.

4. CC (CUTE CANINE) TV: Owners can watch their pups via webcams in the play areas. Marni says, “They keep them up on their computers all day. When they don’t see their dog for a while, they call us. We let them know that they’re getting their bath or are in a timeout.” Timeouts happen when a dog acts up and clearly needs to rest. “They usually laugh when they hear the reason.”

5. FOSTER DOGS: One boarding suite is dedicated to fostering. Fifteen dogs have been placed so far, including one of a customer who died of cancer. All have gone to customers, who get free day care and bathing services for the dog’s lifetime.

Continue Reading

America's Coolest

Former Day Care Owners’ Foray Into Boutique Nets Steadily Increasing Sales

Former day care owners’ foray into boutique nets steadily increasing sales.

mm

Published

on

Notorious D.O.G., Clarence, NY

OWNERS: Laura LaCongo and Jessica Mbgua; URL:notorious.dog; FOUNDED: 2015; OPENED FEATURE STORE: 2016; EMPLOYEES: 2 part-time ; AREA: 3,200 square feet; FACEBOOK: NOTORIOUSpetproducts; INSTAGRAM: notorious.dog


LAURA LACONGO AND JESSICA Mbgua are all about freshness now. The business partners had owned a doggie overnight and day care, complete with grooming salon, for 17 years when they decided it was time for a new venture.

“We had another niche and vision in mind,” LaCongo says, “so we sold the business and opened Notorious D.O.G. in 2016.”

The Clarence, NY, store offers high-quality products for pets and their people. Thanks to an emphasis on fresh, from marketing and merchandising to food and toys, sales have increased 30-plus percent year over year.

Advertisement

New Branding & Marketing

LaCongo and Mbgua wanted their new store’s name to represent their commitment to pets and grab people’s attention. The play on one of rapper Christopher Wallace’s stage names, The Notorious B.I.G., does both.

“Biggie was strong and powerful,” LaCongo explains, adding that the memorable name and its logo featuring a spiked collar makes a fresh appeal to the pet parent customer base.

“We don’t limit ourselves to the usual range of 20- to 65-year-old females. They still make up the majority of our buyers, but men also come in and enjoy shopping. They really love our logo. Its branding power expands our sales into another area.”

The owners also update the store’s exterior monthly — four 4-by-5-foot posters introduce new products — to draw in passersby. Monthly mailers convey the information and coupons to members of The Notorious V.I.P. rewards program.

Fresh Displays & Products

The store’s design veers toward modern, with gray hardwood floors and metal fixtures with clean lines. Walls are white with products and displays providing the pops of color.

“I’m constantly changing the appearance, making it a fun and exciting shopping experience,” LaCongo says.

Many of the fixtures have wheels to move easily based on strength of sales or lack thereof. A recent setup used venison as its uniting theme and featured a metal deer’s head with food and treats from Ziwi, Primal, Stella & Chewy’s, Orijen and others. Camo collars and harnesses, plus stuffed woodland creatures from the likes of Fluff & Tuff completed the look. The store’s back office stays crammed with props year-round.

“I add the wow factor, what will make a customer pick up a bag of food or a toy.”

LaCongo says Fluff & Tuff and West Paw are the only toy companies always carried in the store. For other toy inventory, she looks to new products.

“Regulars are never going to see the same old toy in the same old section.”

All products must meet certain criteria: “When we buy, we research who, where and why, what problem a product solves. Every product has to have a reason for it. We like companies like Wondercide. Their products have a purpose and make a difference.”

Advertisement

Frozen & Fresh as the Future

Notorious D.O.G. currently has four freezers, with plans to add several more in the near future. Primal, Northwest Naturals, Answers and Stella & Chewy’s are the frozen brands carried, in addition to freeze-dried offerings.

“Frozen is the one protection brick-and-mortar stores have against online, the one product we have that customers can’t get anywhere else,” LaCongo says.

Fresh products from local companies Fetch Gourmet Dog Treats and Nuggets Healthy Eats also are found in this area. Food makes up 50 percent of overall sales, with fresh and frozen bringing in 15 percent of that.

PHOTO GALLERY (9 IMAGES)

{{gallery_holder}}

Five Cool Things About Notorious D.O.G.

1. EXPERT ADVICE: Laura LaCongo and Jessica Mbgua retain their certification as veterinary technicians. It helps them advise on issues ranging from diet to skincare.

2. INSTA-FUNNY: Notorious D.O.G.’s Instagram account shows off happy canine customers and new and featured products with a sense of humor. Staffers climb into crates to show their roominess. Visiting pups crunch down on identifiable body parts. Special effects on videos add to the fun.

3. BEFORE AND AFTER: The store looks nothing like the insurance agency it once was, thankfully. A renovation’s result: a striking exterior with cool lighted Notorious D.O.G. sign and a sleek modern interior.

4. BETTER BIZ CARDS: The business cards LaCongo, Mbgua and their employees carry are not only friendly but offer savings. The front says “Nice to meet you,” and the back has a coupon redeemable for $5 off anything in the store.

5. ROCK-STAR STATUS: Members of the rewards program earn $10 for every $250 spent, and get a $5 store coupon for their pet’s birthday and access to special sales. The top 25 customers also become Notorious D.O.G. Rock Stars, which rewards them with a $25 gift card, plus a $5 gift card for a friend.

Continue Reading

Most Popular