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True North

Helping pets through retail and research guides Nicole Cammack’s career.

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NorthPoint Pets & Company, Cheshire, CT

OWNER: Nicole Cammack; WEBSITE:northpointpets.com; FOUNDED: 2014; OPENED FEATURED STORE: 2018; EMPLOYEES: 5 full-time, 12 part-time; AREA: 6,500 square feet; TOP BRANDS: Oliver Peoples, Kate Spade, Tiffany, Tom Ford, Swarovski; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/northpointpetsandcompany; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/northpointpets


Nicole Cammack began her journey in the pet industry with a Pit Bull named Taser. The 5-month-old puppy had severe gastrointestinal issues, and veterinarians couldn’t determine the cause.

“I was told to take him home, that nothing could be done and he was going to die,” she recalls. “I knew it had to be nutrition related but didn’t know how. I started down the rabbit hole of raw food, and very quickly Taser became a happy, healthy dog. He’s 13 now.”

Nicole Cammack, owner of NorthPoint Pets & Company.

Nicole Cammack, owner of NorthPoint Pets & Company.

The experience led Cammack to parallel paths within nutrition: human and companion animal. On top of her undergraduate degree in business administration, she earned a master’s in human nutrition science.

“I knew I needed to dive into the human side. Humans and canines are so similar. If you look at the diseases we share, many of the causes are the same. We live in the same environment. We eat the same type of processed diet. We’re exposed to the same toxins. If we had answers for humans, I could go back and do research for dogs.”

Cammack started that research in 2014 by opening NorthPoint Pets & Company in Cheshire, CT. She is enhancing it with a five-year doctorate program in comparative biomedical sciences, canine nutrition, that started this fall at the
University of Georgia. With the goal of helping dogs like Taser on a global scale, Cammack juggles the store and her studies.

“We’re looking at what happens in the body through a field called metabolomics. This allows us to get a metabolic picture prior to development and during disease processes. If we can figure out where things go haywire, we can potentially prevent or stop disease from happening and, even better, use nutrition as a way to influence the expression or onset.”

From CEO tO CSO

To work successfully from afar, Cammack relies on the successful base she has built along with the talent and structure of her team. NorthPoint spans 6,500 square feet and specializes in dog and cat nutrition, not surprisingly. Carefully selected wet and dry foods line walls and wide aisles. A massive walk-in freezer and 16 glass-door freezers hold raw and other products.

“One of the biggest strengths our team possesses is the ability to listen to the customer, assess their needs, and break through all the marketing puffery to make unbiased solution-based recommendations. In other words, we don’t always give the customer what they want but instead what they need along with an education on the reasons why,” she says. “This approach has brought us incredible customer loyalty, a kick-ass reputation and incredible, high double-digit growth year after year.”

Cammack continues to consult on complex cases from Georgia, but trusts her team with the majority as well as day-to-day operations. She began restructuring during the pandemic to allow for her to take advantage of opportunities like the PhD program. Jenna Harrison serves as store manager, alongside Tina Adams in the buyer and operations roles. The three do a weekly check-in, and Harrison and Adams share a document with the entire staff each Sunday with product updates, training and any other need-to-know info.

“Everything goes on this report, and it’s live so I can go in anytime day or night to check in and add notes. It’s my pulse so I can see what’s going on,” Cammack explains.

She also has remote chief financial officer and accountant positions, and a full-service marketing agency, all of which has resulted in Cammack changing her title to chief science officer.

“I like to be involved in the science and strategy. I still have a large hand in what products we bring in, but ultimately I have given them the tools and the knowledge they need to ask the right questions of brands.”

Buyer and operations manager Tina Adams tidies cans on a shelf.

Buyer and operations manager Tina Adams tidies cans on a shelf.

True North

Guiding Cammack throughout her professional and educational careers has been one simple concept: true north. In geography, “true north” points directly to the North Pole. She recognizes that just like in navigation, the path taken to a fixed point can and should vary.

“True north differs depending on where you are standing and what your perspective is,” Cammack says, relating this to the nutrition plans she creates for her aptly named NorthPoint Pets & Company. “There never is one right answer.” When talking to a customer, “I get to know their lifestyle: how they get up in the morning, what they do with their dog, how they feed themselves. I look at how I can get this person to elevate or at least buy into this idea of taking care of their pet differently. You can’t go from 0 to 60 . If I don’t shame them for whatever they’re doing and can get them to do a little bit better, I’ve done my job,” to help them meet the goal of improved health.

And just as her customers take different paths, she has altered course and will continue to do so.

“I would love to see NorthPoint do nutritional consults with an integrative veterinary partner. Vet medicine does amazing things, but the nutritional side also has a lot to offer. If we could bring the best of both worlds together in an evidence-based, scientific way, that would be a gamechanger.”

Five Cool Things About NorthPoint Pets & Company

1. PUBLISH & PROSPER: Cammack published her first peer-reviewed study, “Low number of owner-reported suspected transmission of foodborne pathogens from raw meat-based diets fed to dogs and/or cats,” with nutritionist Dr. Ryan Yamka and veterinarian Dr. Vicki Adams, in October’s Frontiers: Veterinary Science Journal. “We learned that there’s a need for the industry to educate veterinarians and consumers on how to safely handle raw pet food, and that the transmission of pathogens appears to be rare.” Retailers can use the results to counteract misinformation about raw feeding.

2. BATHTIME: Healthy practices extend to the store’s two self-wash stations. Tubs made from horse troughs are raised and accessible via steps, providing comfort to people and pets. The bays are separate, spacious and fully enclosed to reduce stress on dogs and keep them safe.

3. K9 SUPPORT: NorthPoint has become the go-to store for K9s in the state, thanks to Cammack’s roots in the community. Her father was a K9 officer, and through those connections, she began teaching nutrition classes locally first then on a national level to agencies with working dogs. “These partnerships have really given us an organic reach in the community. A lot of people hear about us through local K9 officers because we’ve helped their dog in some way shape or form, and that has built a lot of community trust.” The store offers a discount for these dogs and even feeds a few for free.

4. UNDOGMATIC: The staff blog attracts readers from near and far with posts such as “The Tough Questions We Ask Prospective Brands” and “Everything You Need to Know About Aflatoxin and Your Pet’s Food.” The store’s marketing agency repurposes the content for social media and email marketing. Cammack says, “This approach helps us build community trust and loyalty. Rarely do we promote specific products. Instead, we promote the culture of science, education and our philosophy: pets before profits.”

5. THE FUTURE: When admitted to the PhD program, Cammack considered selling NorthPoint but decided against it. “What the store does for the community and what, I like to think, for the industry is so much bigger than putting $1 million in my
pocket.” She no longer draws a salary and plans to transition ownership to her team after finishing school.

PHOTO GALLERY (6 IMAGES)

Pamela Mitchell is the Editor-in-Chief of PETS+. She works from her home office in Houston, TX, with Ty the Boston Terrier as her assistant.

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