A Wisconsin store has mastered surviving and thriving
STORY BY PAMELA MITCHELL
“It was so dismal, with all of the gravel and dust, and the fire alarms going off constantly,” recalls Connie Roller of 2008, when demolition began on the mall in Grafton, WI, where the store was originally located. Staff and customers endured months of mess as a lawsuit against the landlord moved forward.
The Feed Bag Pet Supply Company
OWNER: Mark Haslam
OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2010
AREA: 13,200 square feet
EMPLOYEES: 15 full-time, 7 part-time
The suit claimed that the mall owner committed to a seven-year lease for 3,000 square feet of space knowing the property would be redeveloped within five years. Mark Haslam, who opened The Feed Bag with Roller in 2003, won in court, but only enough to cover his legal expenses. He had to pull from savings for the move to a short-term location and then again in 2010 to the current 13,200-square-foot store in nearby Mequon.
Perseverance and hard work — Roller ran the Grafton store while Haslam, also an electrical engineer, gutted and remodeled the new location — have paid off.
Offering More In Mequon
Gaining 10,000-plus square feet has allowed The Feed Bag to grow significantly.
“We were able to expand all product lines,” Roller says. “It didn’t take long to fill every inch. We even have stuff hanging from the ceiling.”
The store stocks high-quality supplies for dogs, cats, small animals, birds, reptiles and fish, with the latter available in freshwater and saltwater varieties in a separate room with dedicated aquatics specialists. Pups get pampered by groomers on staff as well as in the DIY doggie wash area.
The biggest addition the move allowed was the fitness pool. Measuring 14 by 26 feet and 4 feet deep, it offers fitness and hydrotherapeutic swims for canine clients. Overweight dogs swim the pounds away. Arthritic, injured and/or senior dogs increase strength and mobility. Working and competitive dogs ease and invigorate sore muscles. Pet parents to active dogs also appreciate having access to the pool.
“It’s a really cool way for dogs to burn energy,” Roller says. “People bring their dogs in for fun, too. They love it. We can hear them yodeling in the parking lot.”
Regular swims are by appointment only and last 30 minutes. Dogs wear life vests and have an experienced swim coach in the pool with them at all times.
Saying No To Price Matching
“The way we do things really hasn’t changed since we expanded. We’re as old-fashioned and full of integrity as we’ve always been,” Roller says.
That consistency of quality and customer experience has allowed The Feed Bag to sell its products and services at a fair price without the worry of community members shopping elsewhere.
“I explain to people that we cannot beat online pricing. Our true customers like that we don’t negotiate price. We pay a higher rent like they pay a higher mortgage,” Roller says. “They also appreciate that we have good staff and we pay them well.”
When a request to price match does come in, she points to the many other ways regular customers can save, including a manufacturer rewards program, the in-store rewards program, and by liking the store on Facebook or signing up for its mailing list to learn about sales.
Bouncing Back Quickly
So about that previously mentioned car driving through The Feed Bag’s front windows ... In 2013, a customer reversed her car over a boulder, up 2 feet of brick and into the store, ending up fully inside the store’s cat section. No one was hurt, thankfully.
“It’s times like these when Mark the engineer comes in handy,” recalls Roller, who was on vacation at the time. “The first thing he did was send people to the hardware store across the street to get gloves and garbage bags. He got everyone organized.”
The store closed for repairs and cleaning — the impact sent broken glass throughout the store — but reopened the next morning, with staff telling customers a shocking story about what had happened the previous day.