Connect with us

The Listener

She can feel her listener sense tingling!

mm

Published

on

True Identity: Debbie Brookham | Owner
Base of Operations: Furry Friends Inc., Colorado Springs, CO

Debbie Brookham didn’t get bit by a radioactive spider, and she wasn’t exposed to a cosmic storm. Instead, she developed her superpower of listening in past professional roles.

“It is not a natural ability. Most people want to gather their thoughts while listening to others. Well, you can’t listen well and formulate words in your head at the same time. As a health care professional, and later a medical salesperson, it was imperative to really listen to my clients to learn what the best solution was going to be for them.”
Brookham now tunes into her store’s customers, then offers solutions to a variety of issues. She shares a tip for improving this important ability:
“I’ve found that if you repeat what you heard back to your clients, there will be no misinterpretations and you can come to a ‘super solution’ together.”

Pamela Mitchell is the senior editor at PETS+. She works from her home office in Houston, TX, with Spot the senior Boston Terrier as her assistant.

America's Coolest

At Muttigans, an Experience No Big Box or Website Can Provide

Muttigans combats big-box and online competition by giving customers what they can’t get anywhere else.

mm

Published

on

Muttigans, Emerald Isle, NC

OWNERS: Wendy and John Megyese; WEBSITE: muttigansplace.com; FOUNDED: 2016; OPENED FEATURED STORE: 2017; ARCHITECT: Julie Hardridge/Architexture; FULL-TIME EMPLOYEES: 1 low season, 3 high season; PART-TIME EMPLOYEES: 3 low season, 8 high season;AREA: 3,000 square feet; FACEBOOK: MuttigansEmeraldIsle; INSTAGRAM: Muttigans


EMERALD ISLE, NC, HAS 3,784 permanent residents. During the summer, population swells to more than 50,000 thanks to tourists. Such a difference presents challenges to any business there that stays open year-round. Add to that for a pet store, increasing online competition.

Wendy Megyese understood this well when she opened Muttigans in 2016 with her husband, John. “We recognized that in order to not only survive but thrive, we had to create a unique customer experience.”

They have done exactly that. Through a welcoming atmosphere and a smart mix of products, food and drink offerings, and special events, the business attracts locals and visitors alike, both pet parents and not.

Shop, Sip And Stay A While

Emerald Isle souvenirs for people and pets are popular at Muttigans, as is store Pug Josie.

The two-story shingled building that houses Muttigans greets customers with large front windows and an 80-foot wraparound porch. Inside, a country charm aesthetic spans 3,000 square feet of retail and cafe space.

Pet supplies make up 48 percent of overall sales, with 45 percent of that in food. Health Extension, Fromm, The Honest Kitchen, Diamond and Merrick are among the brands carried. Staff special-order others so that residents can shop local instead of ordering online or having to leave town for supplies.

“When you live on the island, going over the bridge is a big deal,” Megyese says, adding that she also has learned to keep small bags of Blue Buffalo in stock during high season for those visiting with their dogs.

Chews, bulk treats and gourmet cookies are popular purchases across the board.

Advertisement

“Tourists especially love the cookies that say Emerald Isle or Muttigans. They’re very Instagramable. Or if they’re vacationing without their pets, they take them home as souvenirs.”

Boutique items such as those with store motto “Paws and Enjoy Life” do well, too, making up 10 percent of overall sales.

Dogs who do get to tag along, whether from near or far, can enjoy a Pup Cup — whipped cream with a choice of lamb, beef or peanut butter biscuit — in the cafe.

“We are very fortunate in that the state health department and county codes consider coffee and our other menu items low-risk. Dogs are allowed anywhere in our store.”

Humans can order for themselves baked goods prepared and individually wrapped off-site as well as smoothies, beer, wine, and hot and cold teas and coffees. The lattes have adorable names such as Mastiff Mint, Milky Bone and Berry Bloodhound.

Seating includes couches and at high-top tables made from upcycled barrels. A variety of board games are available for play, from chess and checkers to Connect Four.

“We want people to feel comfortable. The longer they stay, the more they spend,” Megyese says, adding that the cafe accounts for 42 percent of overall sales.

Customers can also enjoy the island air from one of the rocking chairs or swings on the front porch. Installed carabiners keep their pups in place.

Pets Not Required, But …

Megyese points out that many Muttigans customers do not have a dog or cat to shop for but simply “come in to enjoy the great atmosphere, their beverage of choice and to give Josie, our Pug, a coveted back scratch.”
She does try to convert the locals, though.

“We host monthly adopt-a-thons and several of our coffee-only customers have become proud pet parents as well.”

Wine tastings and painting parties are among other events that draw in a variety of people. Most benefit animal rescue, with local group Misplaced Mutts receiving more than $5,000 in proceeds last year. The fundraising directly ties in to the store and cafe’s name, and the Megyeses’ pets, the previously mentioned Josie and Presa Canario Moka.

“One of the reasons we chose [Muttigans] is that it’s a play on the golf term mulligan, which is a second chance or a do-over. Many of our dogs, including mine, are rescued. They have been given a second chance at life. They are do-over dogs, so we thought the name was very appropriate.”

PHOTO GALLERY (10 IMAGES)

{{gallery_holder}}

Five Cool Things About Muttigans

1. STORE SECURITY: Wendy and John Megyese are both former law enforcement professionals. Wendy’s last role was as a school resource officer, and John retired as a police detective after 37 years on the force. Needless to say, they excel in theft prevention. John also takes on human resource duties at Muttigans.

2. BUZZ ONLINE: Travel websites list Muttigans as a must-visit destination on the state’s Crystal Coast. The store and cafe also has a five-star rating on TripAdvisor and Facebook, and #muttigans and #pupcup regularly appear on Instagram. All of this helps attract tourists during high season, which accounts for 60 percent of annual business.

Advertisement

3. THE BEST SEATS: Emerald Isle’s Christmas parade features more than 100 floats, and it passes in front of Muttigans. Rocking chairs and swings on the front porch provide prime viewing and seating. The store “sells” these spots during the parade and donates proceeds to the local animal shelter.

4. MORE MUTTIGANS: Pet parents on the mainland recently got their own store in Swansboro. They appreciate not having to contend with tourists in the summer. The second location also offers grooming, which the main store could not because of local regulations.

5. FAMILY BUSINESS: Daughter Danielle Rinehart and son Joshua Velazquez have joined the Muttigans team. Rinehart works as the events coordinator. Velazquez handles e-commerce, and recently launched the store and cafe’s app. It allows users to earn rewards for buying pet products and coffee, and they can use it to book grooming appointments.

ONLINE EXTRA: Q&A with Wendy Megyese

One book: Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, by Ingrid Fetell Lee

One website: Pinterest

One gadget: My cell phone, of course

One plane ticket to: Puerto Rico

Most significant mentor and why: His name was Anthony Masi. He was like a second dad to me. I learned the impact storytelling can have, especially while breaking bread.

Favorite business book: the classic Dale Carnegie How to Win Friends and Influence People

Best advice ever given: Live each day as if it were your last because one of them will be.

Best advice ever received: Out of every adversity comes a seed of equal or greater benefit. Always look for the seed.

Advice for a new store owner: Create a place you would go back to again and again if you didn’t own it. Make it an extension of who you are. It will happen anyway, so be purposeful about it.

If I’d known: How much of an impact the company you keep makes then, life would have been a whole lot easier.

I drive a Honda Accord. If I could choose any car… it would be a black Cadillac CTS with premium Bose sound system and heated and cooled leather seats. (Yes, I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while now.)

What superpower would you like to have? I’d love to be able to live and breathe underwater.

What’s the best customer service you’ve ever experienced? I vacationed in Emerald Isle four summers in a row from 2006 to 2009. I would always go to a gift shop called Elly’s. I was the typical tourist who bought post cards, seashells and Emerald Isle branded items. I did not return again until the summer of 2014. When I walked in the store, one of the employees looked at me and exclaimed “Wendy! How have you been? How did things work out for you? I haven’t seen you in so long!” Not only did she remember my name, she remembered the details of our last conversation five years earlier! In my mind, I was just another tourist. One among thousands who come through there every week, but she made me feel so incredibly special. She is a long time employee of that store, and if I could get her to work for me, I would do so in a heartbeat. But I have settled for having her as one of my very dear friends and one of the best examples of what superior customer service looks like.

My perfect day: Wake up early to the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Let the dogs out and watch them play as I sit on the dock drinking my first cup. Get dressed and pull on my leather boots because I’m taking my Harley Davidson into town to check on both stores. After making sure everything is good, I’d take a leisurely countryside ride with my husband. Get back home and after having leftovers for lunch I’d take a 20-minute nap. Then I’d grab my bathing suit and a book, and spend a few hours on the river. At dinner time, my kids and grandkids come over and we share a meal and some laughter. Then I’d end the day sitting on the couch, watching a movie with my hubby and the dogs. Perfection.

Advertisement

What’s the toughest thing you’ve ever had to do professionally? Fire employees that I had grown to like personally.

If your store were on fire, what’s the one thing you’d save? Assuming all people and pets were safe, I would grab the collar that belonged to my Cane Corso Maya.

If money were no object… I’d get all new display fixtures for my store.

When I meet people, the first thing I notice about them: is their body language.

If I were a pet… I would be a cat because no one would judge me if I wanted to ignore them.

Favorite film: A Knight’s Tale

Best vacation ever: Emerald Isle, NC, summer of 2015. We spent two weeks here and decided we wanted to make this our home.

If I weren’t a pet business owner, I’d be: a writer and coach.

Current career goal: Grow Muttigans into a national chain.

Current life goal: Allow myself to enjoy time away from the business.

My hero is: my husband. He spent 37 years as a law enforcement officer and daily saw the worst side of humanity or rather inhumanity. Yet he still has an amazingly tender and giving heart.

Favorite store that’s not my own: Elly’s Gifts in Emerald Isle

I am most frustrated when: I can’t figure out how to make certain technology or gadgets work

I am happiest when: I am spending time with my family

Weekend activity: boating on the Bogue Bank Intracoastal Waterway

The thing I worry about that I know I shouldn’t: Am I living up to my potential?

Continue Reading

Best of the Best

Create Connections: A Dog Festival Attracts Crowds of Thousands

Make use of a dog fest to get to know your local pet store and service providers.

mm

Published

on

PATTIE BODEN HELD the first DogFest in 2013. The owner of Animal Connection in Charlottesville, VA, set up shop along with 12 rescue groups, veterinarians and trainers at a local dog park. More than 500 attendees played games with their pups and got to know their local pet store and service providers. By 2018, 45 vendors and more than 3,500 pet parents took part in the fun.

(Left) Pattie Boden

THE IDEA

Help pet parents find resources in Charlottesville. Boden says, “The community grew so quickly. We needed an event to introduce our business to new people moving in and to those who had been here for years but hadn’t gotten to know us.”

She sees DogFest as an extension of her customer service.

“I’ve always wanted my store to be the place where people could find out about dog trainers or holistic vets or animal communicators or other resources. That’s why I called it Animal Connection in the first place.”

Advertisement

THE EXECUTION

Make a list, then mix it up. In 2013, Boden began the planning process by inviting businesses and groups that complemented her store. In 2018, she even asked two friendly competitors to participate.

“We’re all a part of the holistic pet community,”she says. “We all compete with big-box and online stores. It’s good for us to join forces, to encourage people to shop local.”

Once vendors are set, Boden creates the festival layout. She starts with a Welcome Center at the entrance, where attendees can pick up a map and register for the popular costume contest. Next-door sit four Animal Connection booths, complete with an 18-foot sample bar that offers food, treats and more. Last year, reps from The Honest Kitchen, Primal, Whitebridge Pet Brands and Pet Food Experts also were on hand to answer questions.

She then alternates business and rescue group booths, creating a varied flow and helping to keep the adoptable dogs as calm as possible. Vendors pay a fee to help cover expenses, even the rescues at a reduced rate to ensure they show. Further incentive: A videographer interviews groups and produces a 60-second spot they can use for promotional purposes.

Advertisement

Humans can dine at food trucks on-site and swing by Three Notch’d Brewery, located adjacent to the park, for a Big Dawg Blonde Ale brewed especially for the fest. In 2018, she also added a live band.

These pups and their tiki bar won top prize in the DogFest costume contest: a $500 gift card for Animal Connection.

THE RESULTS

Boost awareness, raise funds. Boden says DogFest brings Animal Connection increased attention and sales.

“A lot of people who attended didn’t know about our store or were new to the area. Or they knew us as a store, but didn’t know about our services,” she says. “I don’t have exact numbers, but I have noticed far more new customers coming into our store.”

The fundraising aspect also helps Charlottesville’s pet community as a whole. Rescue groups held individual raffles at their booths, and for every pint of Big Dawg Ale served, the brewery donates $1 to Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA — it raised $2,000 in 2018.

Do It Yourself: 5 Steps to a Dog Fest

  • START SMALL. Throw a mini-fest in your parking lot or a nearby dog park as a test run to gauge interest. Have a rain plan!
  • PARTNER WITH MANUFACTURERS. Dozens of product companies provide samples for DogFest, and some plan to have their own booths in 2019.
  • PAY FOR SOCIAL MEDIA. Boden hires an agency to boost visibility for the fest and increase attendance.
  • HAVE MORE THAN ENOUGH HELP. Not only are Animal Connection employees scheduled to work, but friends and family get in on the fun. Outfit everyone in store shirts.
  • DRIVE POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS TO YOUR WEBSITE. Boden hires an event photo booth company. Attendees must go to animalconnectionva.com to see and download their pics.

Continue Reading

Benchmarks

Check Out These 11 Cool Pet-Business Checkout Counters

Make ringing up a sale a memorable experience.

mm

Published

on

THE BEST CHECKOUT COUNTERS make a statement, but such statements can vary in size. One can be big and bold in a store with ample square footage, while another can be small and subtle in a limited spaced. This collection of counters includes both.

Dee-O-Gee

BOZEMAN & BILLINGS, MT
The checkout counters at these stores feature a stainless steel top and oversized portraits of dogs at area parks. Josh Allen keeps counter space clear for the most part. “Our goal is for clients to feel welcome — for them to be able to pile bags of food along with retail merchandise and not feel like they are taking up a bunch of space or that their products are falling all over the place. We want them to have as much space as they need.”

$4,000

TIP: Less is more. “Business cards and then one to two small items at each POS. We rotate these items often to keep it fresh for regulars.”

Dog Krazy

RICHMOND, VA
Nancy and Chris Guinn took the DIY route when building out their fourth location. Chris created this checkout counter from displays left behind by the previous tenant, a men’s clothing store. He added black paint and a tile top, plus drawers and shelves inside, and a bakery case on one end. Chris also designed and laid tile in front with the store’s logo.

$600

TIP: Use the counter only for checking out customers. Nancy says, “We spend most our time on the sales floor and not behind the desk to give all of our customers that one-on-one experience!”

Advertisement

Bow Wow Beauty Shoppe

SAN DIEGO, CA
Store color mint green covers this checkout counter that Leel Michelle built to fit her space. With the adjacent bakery case and dog-level sign, it makes the perfect backdrop for photos. A minimal mix of last-minute items and decor, such as an old-fashioned pink scale, are strategically placed on top.

$600

TIP: “Ladies, learn how to use electric and hand tools! Those skills come in handy being a small-business entrepreneur!”

Godfrey’s – Welcome to Dogdom

MOHNTON, PA
Barb Emmett hired a cabinetmaker to create her checkout counter, plus a back counter with display area. The latter helps set the tone for her store. “I truly love the arts, so I want to include items unique to us or our area, and made by local juried craftspeople. We are about the celebration of people and their dogs, finding products that are carefully curated and are of high quality, carrying through to the high level of services provided.”

$3,000

TIP: Offer free treats to people, too. Emmett keeps a dish filled with snack-size candies on the counter.

Odyssey Pets

DALLAS, TX
This circular counter features dual designs and has multiple purposes. Striking stainless steel wraps around the front, where customers check out. Wooden slatwall covers the back enclosure, where small daycare dogs nap and play. Shape and location forces shoppers into a racetrack pattern when walking the store, Sherry Redwine points out. “My staff can see almost every area from the register, which helps with customer service and deters theft.”

$10,000

TIP: Tempt with treats. “People will buy a last-minute bully stick at the register just because it’s there.”

Bubbly Paws

ST. LOUIS PARK, MN
Keith and Patrycia Miller had their architect design this wooden checkout counter. It had to fit into the pet wash and grooming salon’s overall design, but also Keith says, “We wanted something sturdy that could handle a large dog being clipped to it and not pull it over.”

$2,500

TIP: Consider carabiners. “We try to make it as easy as possible for customers to go hands-free while making sure the dog is still leashed.”

Loyal Biscuit Co.

ROCKLAND, ME
This checkout counter painted in store color lime green does double duty. “Our logo also makes a great backdrop for photos,” Heidi Neal points out. Customers can even put their dog in a sit and back up to shoot, thanks to a boat cleat that holds leashes tight. Joel Neal created the counter using lumber, sheetrock and laminate.

$600

TIP: Be strategic in what you place on top, both in terms of appeal and aesthetic. Heidi says, “I didn’t do a great job at concealing computer wires, so I try to pick tall things to hide those.”

Furry Friends Inc.

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO
Debbie Brookham inherited her checkout counter from the previous tenant, but she made it her own with a coat of pink paint and a surprise for canine customers. “I decided to put mirrors on it because I know how dogs love to look at themselves. This has totally worked, and we love the cuteness factor it brings out in our furry friends.”

$0

TIP: “Change your counter up all the time. People like to look at interesting items while checking out, and you just might make some extra money.”

Advertisement

Youngblood’s Natural Animal Care Center & Massage

GREENFIELD, IN
To suit her store’s country-chic aesthetic, Samantha Youngblood created a counter base from scrap wood and repurposed barn metal. Wood from her family’s tree farm became the top. Two tiers — “one for the customer to set the products on and another for ringing up and bagging” — help keep checkout orderly and efficient. The bottom level doubles as a gift-wrapping surface, complete with a hanging roll of craft paper.

$20

TIP: Clamp mason jars to the counter’s side to keep scissors and pens handy without taking up surface space.

Razzle Dazzle Doggie Bow-Tique

BRADLEY, IL
Jodi Etienne knew exactly what she wanted in a checkout counter, so she asked her husband, Steve, to build it. He combined repurposed kitchen cabinets with custom sections to create the base, then covered it with tongue-and-groove siding, which Jodi painted white. They poured and sealed concrete for the top. A gate contains “assistant managers in training.”

$1,000

TIP: Brave DIY to save money on labor. Jodi says of her husband, “He is not a professional, but he is a perfectionist. He learned from YouTube videos.”

Animal Connection

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA
When Pattie Boden saw an antique oyster-shucking table in a small country store on Virginia’s coast, she knew it would be her checkout counter. “It was a little beat up, but I liked it that way. I just cleaned the legs and did some butcher’s wax on the top boards.”

$300

TIP: Personalize your checkout. “We surround our area with pictures of our own dogs, cats and horses, and create a family gallery.”

Urban Dog Barkery

HOUSTON, TX
Teresa Bues creates an impulse-buy zone around her checkout counter. “We stash treats and perhaps some human items along with decorated treats. Behind the counter, we put items we feel are things we want people to see when they are standing there. It has helped with sales.” The counter came together from a work table she found on the property and leftover “stainless” material from another project.

$0

TIP: Point out that hooks for leashes also work for purses, so customers don’t have to put their bags on the counter or floor.

Continue Reading

Most Popular