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Show of Strength: How Five Businesses Survived Tough Times

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Five Pet Pros Who Didn’t Give Up When Times Got Hard

 STORY BY PETS+ STAFF

Businesses rarely grow in a straight line. There are stops and starts, hills and valleys, tantalizing  victories and crushing setbacks.  Many businesses fall at the first hurdle they come across. Others fall later in the race. But failure wasn’t in the cards for this crew of pet store professionals, who faced critical business situations and still came out on top. Learn how they did it.


Zink with a well-dressed friend at a Salty Paw event.

WHEN THE WATER CAME

THE SALTY PAW, MANHATTAN, NY

A groomer’s fast-rising business was laid low by natural disaster. But her strong commitment and business ingenuity have helped her bounce back. / BY PAMELA MITCHELL

Amanda Byron Zink vividly remembers turning onto Peck Slip, the street in Manhattan’s Seaport district where The Salty Paw sits. As she waded toward her store, a pet portrait floated by on the three feet of floodwater still remaining from Hurricane Sandy.

“My heart sank when I reached the doors, except I no longer had doors—they were hanging by their hinges and smashed. It was gone. All of it,” Zink says of The Salty Paw and its inventory.

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“I stood there for a good minute before I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around, and it was the owner of the restaurant next door. There were no words. We just hugged and cried.”

Prior to those devastating days in 2012, Zink had been enjoying great success. She opened the boutique grooming salon in 2007 and worked tirelessly to build it into a neighborhood favorite.

“I pounded the pavement every day,” she recalls. “I spoke to doormen about our services for pets, walked up to people with dogs on the street, and even dressed my Great Dane in a sandwich board to advertise the store.”

Local press — including Time Out New York and New York Post — took notice, which led to designer Isaac Mizrahi hiring The Salty Paw groomers to style and dye poodles for his New York Fashion Week Fall 2011 show. The colorful pups accompanied models down the runway.

“We were super proud,” says Zink. “Then in 2012, at the peak of our business, Hurricane Sandy came.”

Floodwaters reached up to 8 feet in the neighborhood, not only damaging homes and businesses, but also the electrical infrastructure underneath. It would be months, in some parts years, before repairs could be completed. Unfortunately for Zink and many others, their insurance did not cover flooding.

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“I was destroyed emotionally, but I knew I could not give up. I had already worked so hard to prove to myself and to doubters that The Salty Paw was viable,” she says, referring to investors who pulled out in 2008 during the recession.

Zink quickly devised a plan to rebuild. She got a $20,000 emergency grant and a $25,000 low-interest loan, the latter of which would have to be paid back over the next 18 months. That money combined with personal funds, loyal clients, and community support—both locally and within the pet industry—kept the business afloat in temporary spaces until it could officially reopen. One of those businesses was Seaport Animal Hospital, which allowed The Salty Paw to set up shop in its basement for five months. Meanwhile, some of the store’s grooming vendors donated supplies.

Eleven months after the hurricane, Zink regained access to her space on Peck Slip and began to rebuild. Construction took just three weeks, and The Salty Paw opened to customers. Sales came back slowly along with the neighborhood, but the store has again seen pre-storm success, and then some.

One bright light for Zink on the road back from the hurricane was the cooperative spirit of her fellow area merchants. “The neighborhood businesses formed a merchants association called The Old Seaport Alliance, and we leaned on one another often,” she says. “We created cross-promotions for one another and hired a director to help guide us. Our mission was to put feet back on the street and the old Seaport back on the map.”

Today, both the Seaport and The Salty Paw are firmly back on the map.

“Year two we were up 10 percent,” Zink says proudly. “Year three, we had 14 percent growth.”

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Lessons Learned

When natural disaster strikes, the fastest way to recover is by working together with those who were also affected.

Keep your client info accessible: Zink removed the P.O.S. system from her store, which allowed her to contact clients once grooming services were available again.

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