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Outkast’s 2003 hit song “Hey Ya!” asked the question: “What’s cooler than being cool?” We have the answer: Taking the PETS+ America’s Coolest Stores contest and updating it for 2021 and beyond. How did we do that? By dropping “Stores” from the name. The pet industry continues to evolve and did so at breakneck speed during the pandemic. While we have always used the term “stores” loosely in relation to the contest, more and more retail operations have added services such as grooming, self-wash, boarding, day care, training, dog walking, pet sitting, and even rescue as in the case of our first-place winner, Yuppy Puppy in O’Fallon, MO. We’re excited to offer more inclusivity, and stay tuned for 2022 and additional changes that will make America’s Coolest even better represent the answer to Outkast’s question: ice cold! — Pamela Mitchell






BOB NEGEN opened a small specialty kite store in 1981 and spent the next 20 years growing his business and learning how to be a successful merchant. In 1999, he and wife Susan founded WhizBang! Retail Training. They have since traveled the world teaching store owners and managers the nuts-and-bolts skills needed to run successful retail businesses.

ANNE OBARSKI is the founder and CEO of Merchandise Concepts, which works with organizations to create astonishing customer service experiences at every touchpoint. As a professional speaker and retail coach, she shares strategic ideas to see repeat customers referring others because of their infectious, enviable, repeatable and remarkable customer service experiences.

DR. BOB AND SUSAN GOLDSTEIN founded Earth Animal Ventures in 1979, which develops and manufactures premium and natural organic herbal remedies, supplements, food and treats formulated by Dr. Bob. They also partner in the Healing Center for Animals, an integrative veterinary consultation practice, and the Earth Animal Retail Store in Westport, CT.

CHLOE DIVITA, co-founder of media company All Pet Voices and the online community BlogPaws, brings 10-plus years of digital and influencer marketing experience and six-plus years of performance coaching to help entrepreneurs, influencers and brands communicate their content to their audience. She is head performance coach for TEDxCambridge, the longest running TEDx event.

TAMMY VASQUEZ and husband Mike own Bark Life, a 14,000-square-foot store, day care and cage-free pet resort in Seminole, FL. Bark Life won first place in the 2020 PETS+ America’s Coolest Stores contest.