Harbor Pet, Greenport, NY
URL: harbor-pet.com; OWNERS: Kim Loper and Andrew LoMonaco; FOUNDED: 1928; OPENED: Purchased store in April 2014, completed renovations/moved to new location in May 2015; AREA: 2,300 square feet; EMPLOYEES: 3; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/harborpet
THE FLOORS AT HARBOR PET tell a story. One rich in history, not just of the building but also of the business itself.
Kim Loper and Andrew LoMonaco purchased the store in 2015 at its original location on Front Street in Greenport, NY. The new owners had big plans and knew they would eventually need a larger space.
When a two-story historic property on Main Street came on the market, they jumped at the opportunity it represented. The additional space would allow Harbor Pet to offer more merchandise and services, and Loper could operate their Life Is Grruff treat bakery under the same roof.
The business partners discussed the 85-year-old oak floors in the front of the building during the move/renovations in 2015. They were original to the previous occupant, White’s Hardware.
“There are dinks and dents and soft spots. Copper nails are set where ropes were measured at different lengths for ships and boats,” Loper describes. “We were going to redo the floors, but then I said why spend all of that money when dogs will just scratch them up again?”
She recognized that the marks also would show respect for the hardware store’s heritage and the community it was a part of.
Attracting Locals and Tourists Alike
Loper also understands the importance of serving both the residents of the seaside village and the tourists who visit. Harbor Pet does this by offering a mix of mainstream and boutique products and services.
Foods in stock include what one might expect to find at an independent store, such as Primal, Orijen and Stella & Chewy’s. Blue Buffalo, Natural Balance and Wellness, all mainstays at big chains, the closest of which is 25 miles away, sit on the shelves, too. Treats, toys and other products in nautical themes are present, but most of the inventory could easily fit into a shop not located steps from a marina at its busiest during the summer months.
“We really try to create an atmosphere that makes residents want to shop with us as well. The town is divided, in that some locals don’t feel like the businesses cater to them. They feel like they cater to tourists and charge more because of that,” Loper explains. “We keep our price points a bit lower and a bit broader so that residents can take advantage of having us in town. And we have a rewards program for them.”
Harbor Pet offers grooming and hourly boarding, too, the latter coming about after Loper saw a need for the service during tourist season.
“Visitors would come to town and leave their dogs in the car or on the boat,” she says. “We started watching customers’ pets while they went and had lunch, just as a courtesy, not even charging for it. The new location gave us room to install 14 kennels so we could do it officially.”
Planning for the Future
Respect for history and community, and the ability to recognize and act on opportunities, has led to a 50 percent increase in sales — significant for a business like Harbor Pet.
Not ones to simply enjoy smooth sailing, Loper and LoMonaco have plans for taking the store to yet a higher level. They want to expand boarding into overnight and bring trainers in to hold classes. Small animals such as hamsters, gerbils and bunnies are on Loper’s mind, as well, with a desire to make sure those pet parents have the supplies they need.
“I’m constantly listening to our customers, hearing what they are looking for and figuring out how to help them,” she says.
Additional renovations planned for this year will allow them to do all of the above and more. The store and bakery have yet to expand into the building’s available second floor space.
No matter how big and successful the businesses become, though, Loper doesn’t envision ever ripping up those original oak floors. After all, they are now a part of the Harbor Pet story now, too.
PHOTO GALLERY (20 IMAGES)
Five Cool Things About Harbor Pet
1. LIFE IS GRUFF: Not many pet stores have a bakery on-site, ensuring treats are freshly made and readily available. The bakery recently introduced Grrowlers treats, made with spent grains from nearby Greenport Harbor Brewing Co.
2. HARBOR PET REWARDS: For every dollar customers spend, they earn 1 point. At 300 points, they get $5 off a purchase of products. The program counts grooming services as dollars spent. Manufacturer reward programs also are honored.
3. DOCK DIVING: On May 20 and 21, Harbor Pet and Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. will host the “North Fork Dock Diving Pet Expo and Fundraiser.” The free event, taking place at the brewery in nearby Peconic, will feature a DockDogs competition as well as jumps by amateur pups who want to give the sport a try. Money raised will go to local charities.
4. GIVING BACK: The store helps animals in need year-round. For local shelters and rescues, it hosts adoption events and donates food and Life Is Grruff treats.
5. PRESERVING HISTORY: Not only are the floors original to White’s Hardware, but the owners brought back two other features the community remembers. They uncovered three hand-cut wooden pillars and stained them to their original splendor. Loper also tracked down two of the store’s wooden display cases and placed them in their original locations.