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On July 4th each year, the United States commemorates the Declaration of Independence with backyard cookouts and fireworks displays. Here at PETS+, we celebrate another freedom as well, that of the independent pet retailer and service provider. These amazing small businesses operate by their own rules and ethics, helping pets and their people in ways that big-box and e-commerce operations simply can’t.

We honor these stores, grooming salons, boarding facilities, day cares, and pet sitting and dog walking providers — plus any combination of these — on July 4th and every other day in the magazine and on our digital and social media channels. All of that coverage leads up to our July-August issue and the results of our annual America’s Coolest contest.

We are thrilled to announce — below in alphabetical order as we no longer rank — the 16 winners that will be profiled in issues through May-June 2023. They exemplify the indie spirit! We get started with the four highlighted in the list. Below that, a new “One Really Cool Thing” section honors eight entrants that did not place in the top spots but that we would love to see enter again in 2023. To them and all of the others who entered, we say, “You just haven’t won yet.”

Finally, a big thank you to our industry judges. After the PETS+ team judged in the categories of exterior and interior appearance, marketing, online presence, individuality and story, we asked this esteemed panel to do the same. You’ll also meet them below. Now let’s get to it!

Meet the Judges

Jessica Cooke | Yuppy Puppy

Cooke took home top honors in our 2021 America’s Coolest contest. Her multi-service business in O’Fallon, MO, continues to excel at grooming, day care, boarding and training, and on-site rescue Yuppy Puppies Forever has helped find new homes for even more dogs whose owners have passed.

Lyn M. Falk | Retailworks, Inc.

Falk is owner and president of the award-winning design, branding and display firm that helps businesses big and small in a variety of industries. She is an international speaker, registered interior designer and consumer behavior specialist.

Anne Ferrante | American Pet Products Association

As senior vice president of Member Relations & Business Development of APPA, Ferrante has been instrumental in growing membership from 300 in 1998 to more than 1,000 companies. She also has helped establish the organization’s National Pet Owners Survey as a global resource for all segments of the pet industry.

Jane Harrell | ’cause Digital Marketing

Harrell is president of ’cause Digital Marketing and co-owner of Working With Dog. Together with her team of 24 top marketing professionals, she provides simple, focused and effective solutions to pet business pros seeking to make a great impact and have a great life.

Bo Nelson |

As president and founder of the leading online wholesale ordering hub for pet products, Nelson is dedicated to helping small-business owners become more successful. With a penchant for small businesses and a passion for customer service, he loves to talk with anyone in the pet industry.


As editor-in-chief of PETS+, Mitchell spends her days deeply entrenched in the world of small pet businesses. She tells their stories with the help of writers and contributors, the latter being retailers and service providers in the PETS+ Brain Squad, making this magazine the only peer-sourced publication in the industry.

chris burslem | SMARTWORK MEDIA

Burslem is group managing editor at PETS+ parent company SMARTWORK MEDIA, whose unique focus on helping independent business owners has given them a useful resource, a voice, and a forum to show off just how darn cool they are.