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Join us in congratulating the 2024 America’s Coolest pet businesses.

There are countless reasons to celebrate independent pet businesses. They serve as vital members of pet care teams, advising their customers on everything from allergy support to zoomies. Indies employ and invest in — and regularly give back to — their local communities. These businesses also have high expectations for our industry, thus helping to elevate it as a whole.

With our annual America’s Coolest contest, we celebrate some of the best independent pet businesses in the country. We always say, there are many different ways to be “cool,” and this year’s eight winners once again prove that point. Among them are a multi-location store transitioning to new ownership after 30-plus years, an intensely Alaskan pet store, and a steampunk-inspired grooming salon with day care, boarding and retail. We profile those three businesses on the following pages, and the remaining five will be featured in issues through May-June 2025.

One last note on this year’s contest: The competition was fierce! Nearly 40 businesses entered, each of them worthy of the America’s Coolest title. It made narrowing the field quite difficult for our panel of judges. (Meet them below.) We hope those that didn’t win will enter again next year.

Finally, a big thank you to 2024 America’s Coolest sponsor SUPERZOO, which will provide an amazing SUPERZOO prize package to our winners: three nights at the Luxor Hotel, VIP Buyer benefits, and education passes for retail and grooming sessions. Winners also get to judge this year’s New Product Showcase. Very cool!

AK Bark
Anchorage, AK
All Pets Considered
Greensboro, NC
Bark N Fetch
Frisco, TX
Bath & Biscuits
Granville, OH
The Crazy Dog Mom
Stoughton, WI
Lizzi & Rocco’s
Natural Pet Market

Columbia, MO
The Nautical Dog
Williamsburg, VA
Premium Pets
Jefferson City, MO


There’s a party going on right here, and it will continue at SUPERZOO. At 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 14, we’ll present this year’s America’s Coolest winners with their trophies, live on the Show Floor Talks Stage. At 4 p.m., we’re hosting a happy hour at our booth (#5019). Stop by to enjoy a refreshment, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, on PETS+ and contest sponsor SUPERZOO. See you in Vegas!


A panel of industry professionals helps the PETS+ team choose America’s Coolest pet businesses. Get to know the pet pros who helped pick the 2024 winners.

Here at PETS+, we get to know and love our readers. PETS+ wouldn’t exist without them, after all. Pet retailers and service providers contribute to the magazine and website through our Brain Squad. They take part in the PETS+ Sample Box program, making it hugely successful. And we can always count on our readers — brand partners included — to talk us up to others in the industry. All of this has helped PETS+ grow and excel since launching in 2017.

All of this to say, we are biased when it comes to them. We know many of the businesses that enter America’s Coolest well. With this in mind, we invite five respected members of the pet industry to join us in judging the contest each year. Members of the panel individually score entries in the categories of Exterior, Interior, Online Presence, Marketing, Individuality and Story. Then we combine the scores and rank the entries. NOTE: When a judge has a personal or professional relationship with an entrant, they recuse themself from judging that entry or we determine if their score affected ranking and adjust as needed.

Now, let’s meet the 2024 America’s Coolest contest judges!


Armstrong serves as the client engagement manager for World Pet Association (WPA) and manages the executive retail buyer program for SUPERZOO, North America’s largest B2B pet product marketplace. For the last 12 years, she has collaborated with retailers on their participation across all WPA events, supporting a strong community of professionals throughout the pet industry. Armstrong thrives when evolving trade show initiatives to develop programs that match industry needs and address retail pain points. Her passion for the industry and strength in pet retail encompasses nearly 30 years and is complemented by her history representing manufacturers and experience with the distribution channel.


Bender is a renowned speaker, author and consultant who has empowered thousands in the retail, hospitality, health care and travel industries. Specializing in store makeovers, she has a proven record of delivering double-digit sales growth. Bender is recognized among the Top 40 Omnichannel Retail Influencers and RETHINK Retail’s Top Retail Experts.


Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals & Nexpet
A pet industry veteran with 27 years of experience selling pet food and treats to independent pet stores, Bioni started in the Philadelphia market in 1997, which led to roles covering much larger areas and eventually the country. He now works as national sales manager for Grandma Mae’s, maker of food and treats for independent pet stores, and as part of NexPet, a co-op for independent pet retailers. Bioni lives outside of Philadelphia with his wife, two daughters and two cats.


Dittman serves as executive director for IndiePet, the association supporting independent pet retailers and their suppliers. His career includes lead marketing and strategic planning roles with major retailers and global associations focused on enhancing the customer experience at retail. Dittman has a Master’s of Business Administration from Loyola University, Chicago, and a Bachelor’s of Business Finance from the University of Cincinnati.


Lewis has always surrounded herself with animals. Her mom remembers Lewis saying, “When I grow up, I want to be a police officer for animals who need help.” And in one way or another, this is exactly what she has done for decades. The current iteration of this passion is her store, Dog River Pet Supplies in Hood River, OR, a 2023 America’s Coolest contest winner. There, Lewis specializes in nutrition and natural medicine for pets. She has also worked in holistic veterinary medicine, which largely informs her professional calling. Lewis believes that treating animals with kindness and respect is imperative to their physical and psychological well being.


Kauffman writes the America’s Coolest features for PETS+. A veteran pet industry journalist, she has covered pets, their people and the industry for more than 30 years. There’s almost no type of service her pets haven’t tried or products she hasn’t tested while working for various magazines and websites for animals — from dog, cat, bird, fish and reptile to small critters. Half of her paycheck is guaranteed to go to pet stores and veterinarians. When not working, Kauffman and her husband travel the U.S. in their RV, with their two dogs and two parrots along for the ride.


As editor-in-chief of PETS+, Mitchell spends her workdays deeply entrenched in the world of independent pet businesses. She tells their stories with the help of writers and contributors, the latter being the 1,800-plus retailers and service providers in the PETS+ Brain Squad. Mitchell works from her home office in Phoenix, AZ, with Ty the Boston Terrier as her snoozing assistant.