Rocky & Maggie’s, Houston, TX
OWNER: Bill Klein; URL: rockyandmaggies.com; FOUNDED: 2011; OPENED FEATURED STORE: 2017; EMPLOYEES: 6; AREA: 2,595 square feet; FACEBOOK: rockyandmaggies; INSTAGRAM: rockyandmaggies
REALITY TV FANS saw the grand opening of Rocky & Maggie’s live on television in 2012. Bill Klein, Jen Arnold and their kids star in The Little Couple, a series on TLC, and in season 5, they invited the world into their pet boutique and salon in Houston, TX. Their store is a rustic and contemporary blend of two high-end shopping staples: Restoration Hardware and the Apple Store. “We had the idea of making it more relatable to a pleasant shopping experience at nicer, higher-end malls and independent boutique-y stores,” Bill Klein says.
Klein also designed the store to be accessible to people of all shapes and sizes, a big draw for pet owners in the area who have disabilities. “I’m short in stature, as we’ve figured out, and our store is also accessible to people with disabilities,” he says. “To be able to serve that community and make those folks feel more comfortable in our stores while they’re shopping for their pets is a goal of mine.”
Selling Peace of Mind
Rocky & Maggie’s sits on the ground floor of a 40-story luxury high-rise, and the store’s services are specific to the people who live upstairs: go-getters, travelers and businesspeople all willing to spend money on pet care they’re too busy to provide.
We’re not selling services, we’re selling peace of mind,” Klein says. “Using our relationship with building management plus permission from tenants, we can go in even in an emergency fashion. If someone is in an accident and they’re stuck in the ER for six hours, they can call the front desk, and we can go up and take their dog for a walk.”
Situated in the Houston geo-metro area — densely populated with pet owners who rent apartments — the store offers similar services to nearby buildings, like taking dogs out for bathroom breaks or longer walks. Services can be booked online or by phone, both future appointments and day-of care.
“They work hard for the rent they’re paying, and they have no choice but to be absent from the house,” Klein says. “People have realized their time is more precious than what they have given it credit for in the past, and now that they’re trying to reclaim their time — that’s where they spend the money.”
Strategic Remote Management
As a reality show personality, Klein is familiar with cameras. He uses them to keep an eye on the store from his home in Florida, where the family moved in 2017. Using a bespoke tool he calls The Daily Flash, Klein and his managers use a simple spreadsheet to get an at-a-glance summary of everything — daily sales, transactions, highlights, lowlights, purchasing notes, money spent, merchandising and cycle counts. “If a dog got nicked because he was moving around during scissoring, and that’s unfortunate but it does happen, that’s something I want to know about immediately, and it’s also in the daily report so we’re all looped in,” Klein says. “We have a good staff in place so I can manage the store from afar.”
Thanks to technology, Klein stays on top of the store and front of mind for his employees, and can push a few buttons on an app to deliver them a surprise dessert tray for a job well done.
Offer What the Internet Can’t
Pet store owners know it’s increasingly difficult to get people to choose an in-person shopping experience over an online order. Klein says people love to come in to try on a new harness or show off a Halloween costume, but turn to the internet for treats or puppy pads. “Do they need to buy Stella & Chewy’s Raw Coated Kibble from me?” Klein says. “No, people get the cheapest or whatever’s accessible.”
Indies can get squeezed because of convenience, lack of infrastructure, and the inability to get giant bulk discounts, Klein says. “Staying competitive by offering services you can’t ship in a box is a way of the future for pet stores.”
Rocky & Maggie’s pet concierge service includes pickup and drop-off for grooming, which is done on-site; pickup and drop-off for veterinary visits, and rides to wherever the dog needs to go. Rocky & Maggie’s also offers basic services like pet sitting, walks and food drop-off.
To get people in the door, his store does a lot of creative programming, from free CPR programs to a Valentine’s Day Kissing Booth. “It’s something we don’t really charge for, and it’s a great way to bring people into the store.”
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Five Cool Things About Rocky & Maggie’s
1. REALITY CHECK: Klein doesn’t tell job applicants he’s on TV before they meet in person. “It’s at that point that they realize I’m the guy they used to watch on TV with their mom or dads when they were kids. It’s a big surprise for them,” he says. “As we go through the process, they find out I’m just Bill the guy that owns the pet store, and then we move on.”
2. UNIQUE SOURCING: The Little Couple stars attend pet shows around the world. “We’re able to bring in products from places that most of the stores around here don’t have access to.”
3. SQUEAKY CLEAN: Klein said he loves everything about the pet industry except one thing: dog smell. Employees keep Rocky & Maggie’s spotless. “We try to make our store smell nice, not like some noxious fragrance, and we keep things as clean as possible.”
4. CUSTOMIZABLE SUBSCRIPTION BOXES: Rocky and Maggie’s offers a monthly subscription box curated for clients. “We can consolidate purchases, and we don’t have everyone going to the big-box stores and Amazon for the basics,” he says. “We’re continuing to improve our processes so our relationships are based on not just convenience but mutual understanding.”
5. POLICY OF TRANSPARENCY: The store has a “Speak Up” policy — If somebody sees something wrong, they are expected to bring it up. “We don’t allow people to continue with bad behavior without being checked by each other. People police each other from becoming a bit more lax.”