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Head or Heart: Fate Guides the Search for a New Store Location

Finances go up against feelings when choosing new store locations. For their most recent Dog Krazy, Chris and Nancy Guinn found both.




IF IT WERE up to me, we would have one store. I’m not a fan of change, but I also know that standing still gets you nowhere. My love of animals and our business model force us to grow Dog Krazy year after year. We have expanded from one store to seven in 16 years, and now we can either continue to grow or we can stand still. We are choosing to grow.

The Problem

HEART—NANCY: Finding new locations for Dog Krazy is something Chris and I love to do, but we differ in how we pick them. I choose by a feeling or attachment to a storefront. It may be that I used to work nearby, or it may be a location I dreamed of one day having a store in based on a past experience.

Our first location came about because of an opportune moment when the owner of a longtime pet supply store displayed a “Store Closing” sign just as I pulled up.

But our third location is next to a dental office I used to manage, and our fourth location is next to the oncologist who has helped us with our own dogs. I love having a connection to storefronts we choose.


HEAD—CHRIS: We have a plan to get to 22 stores. If it were up to me, we would open a new store every few months, but Nancy doesn’t want to expand too quickly. I focus on numbers and know that to reach our goal, just over the next five years we will need to open a minimum of two stores a year.

Picking a new location involves various factors determined by data-driven research, market analysis and economic indicators. For example, we look at distance from an existing location, average traffic counts on main and cross roads, and what other stores are around. We have a fairly busy road in Fredericksburg, VA, that gets a ton of traffic, but the area is economically depressed. Why? Because no one really stops along that corridor. Outside of a couple of gas stations and a grocery store, it’s just not a successful area for small businesses. Many have come and gone, and as much as I would love to think of Dog Krazy as a destination store, it needs to be anchored by other retailers.

Cost analysis including rent, utilities, taxes and labor expenses enable me to choose a location that aligns with our budget and maximizes profitability. When I look for a new location, it’s never, “I want to be in this shopping center!” I’ve done that and been burned on rent and size — we took a bigger space than needed and are paying more than we should. So it was a double whammy. I’ve learned my lesson and now focus on the area before nailing it down to the center.

The Decision

HEAD—CHRIS: Numbers will always come before feelings when choosing a new location. Lucky for us, Nancy can find the good in most locations, so it works out in our favor.

HEART—NANCY: While I know numbers will always take priority, I can always find a way to make a location fit into our brand image and culture.


The Results

HEAD—CHRIS: More often than not, fate steps in and the right location falls into our laps. Our newest location is everything I was looking for: The demographics are in line with our target market, and the rent works. Nancy viewed the space and liked it, but she needed a day to let it marinate and get a feeling for the new-to-her area. As we were leaving, a woman popped her head in the door and asked if we were associated with the Dog Krazy van parked outside. It turned out she owns the integrative veterinary clinic in the same shopping center and was excited to see us looking at the space.
Nancy got goosebumps on her arms while she spoke to the vet. As we were leaving, she looked at me and said, “This is our new location.”

HEART—NANCY: If that vet hadn’t walked in, I don’t know if I would be as excited as I am about the new location. But as with most things in life, I truly believe there is a reason for everything. I am very excited that this decision worked for both the head and the heart.



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