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A Dream Come True

Years of collecting images and ideas led to a Rhode Island store.

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Woof! Woof! Pet Boutique & Biscuit Bar, Bristol, RI

URL: woofwoofboutique.com.; OWNER: Sherri Dechaine; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2015; AREA: 1,200 square feet; EMPLOYEES: 1 full-time,2 part-time; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/woofwoofboutique


SHERRI DECHAINE RECALLS the exact moment she decided to open a pet boutique. “I was on vacation, back in the ’90s, and went into one. I thought, ‘This is something I really, really want to do. Somehow. Someday.’”

Once home, DeChaine began putting together a “dream book” of ideas and images for her future store. She added to it regularly over the years, while working as a veterinary technician and owning a successful pet-sitting and dog-walking business.

The collection served as a starting point for Woof! Woof! Pet Boutique & Biscuit Bar, which DeChaine first opened in Warren, RI, in 2011. It wasn’t until she moved the store to Bristol in 2015, though, that all of her dreams came true.

“I finally had the space I wanted. I was in tears I was so happy. It’s perfect.”

Historical Attraction

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DeChaine says her first two locations in Warren were never quite right: too small, then too open. Those aren’t issues in the current building, a historic home near Bristol Harbor that dates back to 1799. Woof! Woof! takes up the first floor in a series of rooms that act as shops within shops.

“It flows really well, with wide openings in between,” she says, “and customers know exactly where to go.”

In one room, they find boutique items such as toys, pet parent gifts, and collars and leashes. Treats rule in another, thanks to impressive Biscuit Bar, Bone House and Butcher Shop fixtures built by her husband, Brett. In the back, top-quality food has its own room, where freezers and more modern shelving won’t clash with the store’s overall decor.

Original wide-plank wood floors run throughout, with a painter who specializes in historic renovation having added an extra coat of sealant to protect them from pet nails. He also coated the walls with washable pumpkin orange and apple green. Vinyl beadboard adds another level of protection, in part against the inevitable dog drool.

Fixtures are natural birch or painted white. DeChaine takes special care to avoid one material in particular.

“We don’t allow any cardboard displays in our store,” she says. “Everything has to be merchandised to match our design.”

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Thanks to pet-loving landlords, Woof! Woof! also has use of the building’s outdoor space. A covered deck out back serves as the location for Mutt Mingle happy hours, complete with wine for humans and Bowser Beer for pups. DeChaine can even set up tents in the yard for large gatherings. Customers are always welcome to order from the frozen treat menu and chill outside with their dogs on any day when weather allows.

“They can sit on our back deck and cool off after a walk, listen to music from Independence Park on the waterfront,” she says.

How Many Pounds?!

The store’s 10-foot Biscuit Bar draws in customers daily. Sales are by the ounce, and frequent buyers earn a pound of free treats for every 11 pounds purchased.

The bar itself holds 80 pounds of biscuits, with Woof! Woof! selling 180 pounds every two weeks. The treats category, which includes an extensive selection of bakery items, makes up 20 percent of the store’s business.

Treat Truck

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The Woof! Woof! treat truck makes its debut in April. The refitted cargo van features mechanical and electrical upgrades necessary for climate control and refrigeration. Solar panels also help in that effort. It has a custom concession window with canopy and an exterior wrap that uses the store colors, and an interior Brett created that resembles it as well.

“There’s even a horn that barks and plays all kinds of animal sounds,” DeChaine says.

Staff will take the truck to farmers markets, festivals and events. It will be rentable for doggie parties as well, with 15 percent of proceeds going to a charity of the host’s choosing. It will also be used for deliveries when not otherwise occupied.

“It’s the next extension of our business,” she adds.

With such an addition, the store should expect to continue its streak of awards. Rhode Island Monthly has named it the Best Pet Boutique three years running.

PHOTO GALLERY (24 IMAGES)

 

Five Cool Things About Woof! Woof! Pet Boutique & Biscuit Bar

1. SIGN SURPRISE: Look closely at Woof! Woof!’s exterior sign. The artist who handcarved it added a charming surprise for DeChaine: beading around the edge that resembles a studded collar, complete with a ID tag that says “Est 2011.”
2. THAT FACE: Copper the mini English Bulldog serves as store dog. Adopted through Long Island Bulldog Rescue, DeChaine describes him as a happy-go-lucky lovebug. He greets customers and stars in many of the store’s social media posts, and he his likeness appears on the new treat truck.
3. HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Woof! Woof! takes birthday and adoption celebrations quite seriously. It has an entire antique hutch dedicated to ready-made cookies, cakes and beverages, as well as party hats, collars and tutus. Pet parents can even order a custom cake for their pup.
4. FUN FACT: Not only does DeChaine have experience as a vet tech and human nutritionist, she has also worked as a personal trainer and competed as a bodybuilder. She understands how food affects the bodies of both pups and their people, and she draws parallels to help customers understand the importance of high-quality products.
5. SIT PRETTY: Woof! Woof! partners with Tracy Dupuis Photography for seasonal and holiday photo shoots. All types of animals are welcome, and a portion of proceeds benefit local animal rescues.
 


ONLINE EXTRA: Q&A with Sherri DeChaine

Advice for a new store owner?
Don’t get frustrated or give up after the first year. Building a business is hard work, and it can take a while to find your strengths. I consider the first couple of years your growing years, where you are discovering which direction you need to go in.

What do you drive? What do you wish you drove?
I drive a Mini Cooper Roadster, If I could choose any car it would probably be exactly what I drive because it makes me smile every day!

What question do you wish customers would not ask you?
The famous question we get daily looking into our bakery case: “Are these for dogs?”

Tell us about your perfect day.
My perfect day is always when things go smoothly, when our nicest and most appreciative customers come through our doors. An absolute perfect day is when we an older/senior dog comes in after just being adopted. There is nothing more that warms my heart than seeing an older difficult to adopt dog get their forever home and coming in to be fitted for new collars, harnesses and seeing them pick out treats and chews.

What’s the toughest thing you’ve ever had to do professionally?
The shoplifters, sadly. We do get them and I hate dealing with that kind of situation.

If money were no object, I’d do ———— to my store.
I would add a 501c3 rescue to my store, specializing in senior/special needs dogs for adoption. I would love to have a space with gorgeous, comfy kennels and beautiful grounds for them to romp and lounge all day where people can meet them and see all they have to still give even though they are older.

If your store were on fire, what’s the one thing you’d save?
Being insured I would not worry about anything except first my employees and store mascot Cooper. Second would be my custom watercolor paintings of my late store mascot Bronx, I would save them if I could. Everything else can be replaced.

Best vacation ever?
Our best vacation was our wedding in Vermont at the Paw House Inn. My husband, Brett and I wanted a private wedding with just us and our two dogs at the time, so Do-San our senior boxer and Java-Chino our special needs boxer walked us down the aisle. We had a pawprint wedding cake and enjoyed a week in the mountains with our dogs by our side.

Current career goal?
To get the Woof Wagon on the road! We have been planning this doggie treat truck for almost five years, between looking for the right truck, a death in the family, and moving the store twice, we FINALLY have bought one and it’s almost done. It will be ready to hit the streets by spring! WOOF! WOOF!

My hero is …
My mother is my hero. Being an only child she raised me to believe in myself, she was my best friend. She was always there for me, and even now though she’s passed on, I can still feel her helping me and being my guiding angel through my most challenging days.

Current life goal?
To eventually move to a warmer climate but not Florida in about eight to years. I will more than likely open a similar boutique wherever we land since I am doing what I absolutely love!

I am happiest when …
I am surrounded by dogs! I have been that way ever since I was a child, even at a party you could always find me with the dog!

Weekend activity?
My husband and I both love cars! We both drive Minis and attend local Mini club events and participate in charity rides. We also own a very rare classic 1960 Maserati 3500GT so we attend classic car shows for Italian/European cars with that beauty.

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.

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PETS+ LIVE! WITH CANDACE D'AGNOLO

Webinar Replay: How One Store Reached the Top of the (Raw) Food Chain

Catch a PETS+ Live! webinar replay in which host Candace D'Agnolo hosts the owners of Ben’s Barketplace, the largest independent retailer of raw food in California. To see more PETS+ Live! webinars, visit https://petsplusmag.com/petspluslive.

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America's Coolest

Pink, Pastel and Dainty on the Surface, Furry Friends Has a Business Model to Aspire To

This store transformed from being a delivery service into a 1,837-square-foot retail space and something else on weekends!

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Furry Friends Inc., Colorado Springs, CO

OWNERS: Debbie & Terry Brookham; URL: furryfriendsinc.com ; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2014; ARCHITECT: Julie Hardridge/Architexture; EMPLOYEES: 1 full-time, 4 part-time; AREA: 1,837 square footage; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/furryfriendsinccolorado; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/furry_friends_inc


PASTEL BLUES AND GREENS welcome customers to Furry Friends Inc. in Colorado Springs, CO. A crystal chandelier hangs in the entry. Adorable bakery items sit atop a small pink table, tempting people and pups alike. Tule, ribbon and floral accents abound.

“Whenever someone comes in, we hear the usual gasp and ‘This is the cutest pet store I have ever seen,’” co-owner Debbie Brookham says.

Behind the dainty decor, though, exists a strong business model, one that began in 2002 as a delivery service for private-label dog food Pet’s Healthy Choice. It has since evolved to include the 1,837-square-foot retail space, plus a tech-savvy staff and delivery van that transforms into a treat and ice cream truck on the weekends.

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Private-Label Success

Brookham — who owns and operates Furry Friends Inc. with her husband, Terry — worked with a pet nutritionist and U.S. manufacturer to formulate and produce the private-label food. It has never contained ingredients from China, which proved highly beneficial during the pet food recalls involving that country in 2007.

“One of our customers told a TV station about us, that we had our own line of dog food and it wasn’t affected,” she says. “A news team came out and rode in our delivery van, and every other station in the area picked it up after.”

The service added 222 new customers in just five days, a nearly 30 percent increase. To keep up with demand, the couple added a 600-square-foot retail area to its warehouse.

“And then when Chewy came along, we knew there was a niche that we wanted to fill: our own line of food delivered, but also sold in a cute boutique setting.”

In 2014, the business moved its retail operations to a busy shopping center. Delivery continues to grow, surpassing 1,800 customers and standing out from other services thanks to the white bakery bag of treats included with every food purchase, free of charge. Pet’s Healthy Choice makes up 60 percent of food sales at 22,000 pounds a month.

“Private-label food has been so successful for us.”

Employees Equipped with Ipads

Now a certified pet nutritionist herself, working toward clinical designation, Brookham teaches her team about the various foods and supplements Furry Friends Inc. offers. She also trains them in how to use an iPad as a sales tool.

During a nutrition consultation, an employee can pull up the store’s website and access ingredients and other information about any food on the floor.

“It’s so much easier to read online than to flip over a bag to look at the label,” Brookham explains, adding that DogFoodAdvisor.com also gets frequent use for its reviews and serving size calculator.

“With customers using their own mobile devices, we decided to dive right in with them. It also allows us to show off our really cool website, that offers free home delivery.”

Salespeople use the iPads for other types of content and products, as well, such as videos of pups playing with Planet Dog toys, for example.

Double-Duty Van

Furry Friends Inc. offers delivery Monday through Thursday. In 2017, the couple realized that their Dodge Sprinter van could serve as an ice cream and treat truck at events Friday through Sunday. They built a shelf for the side opening and added a red-and-white striped awning. An updatable whiteboard lists the offerings, with the likes of The Bear & The Rat frozen treats and Nana’s Pupcakes as regular items.

“It’s an easy way to get out into the community to help our business, instead of setting up a booth,” Brookham says. “People can buy something for their dogs, and we give them a $5 gift card. It brings shoppers to the store who have never been before.”

The transformed van sets up at various festivals and farmers markets from late May through September, which lessens the summer sales slump.

“Our sales would always dip in June and July, when people are off on vacation. This makes the register ring during those months.”

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The same TV stations that asked for interviews in 2007 were eager to spotlight the new truck and continue to do so. Add to that Facebook event posts and live videos letting followers know where it will be, and a line often forms at the window.

Event organizers and even apartment complex managers now reach out to Brookham to book a stop.

PHOTO GALLERY (10 IMAGES)

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Five Cool Things About Furry Friends Inc.

1. THREE GENERATIONS: The business has evolved from mom and pop to nanny and pappy. Debbie and Terry co-manage, and they hope to one day pass the business to their children, marketing exec Tracy and U.S. Navy Commander JB, who are always ready to offer insight. Grandson Spencer, now 20, impresses customers with his nutritional knowledge when he stops in. Grandson Jacob, 16, often rides along on delivery days.

2. BILLION-DOLLAR ADVICE: In 2010, Shark Tank invited the Brookhams to pitch Furry Friends Inc. for franchising. Their interviews with producers and hosts didn’t air, but Debbie Brookham says “Getting advice from billionaires took us in new directions.” Two years later, they opened the current store, complete with grooming and DIY bathing.

3. HELPING PUPPY MILL SURVIVORS: Since 2007, Furry Friends Inc. has been the official pet food partner for National Mill Dog Rescue in nearby Peyton, CO. To donate food, supporters can buy food at a 15 percent dicount from the the store’s website.

4. NO-BAKE BAKERY: “Even though we’re not a bakery, we appear as one! We’re known for our beautiful cakes and cookies displayed like a quaint bakery. We’ve gotten the word out via Facebook that we are the place to come for your dog’s birthday,” she says. “Bakery makes up about 18 percent of our business now.”

5. DOGGIE SPA DAY: Furry Friends Inc. takes a spa approach to its grooming. Dogs get one-on-one time with Crystal Parrott, and among the many menu offerings is a Posh Package that comes with teeth brushing, pawdicure, mud mask, facial and head massage.

ONLINE EXTRA: Q & A

One book:

EMyth

One plane ticket:

Italy

Most significant mentor and why:

Bob Negan from Whizbang Retailers. He has his own past experiences with retail and now mentors thousands of retailers in all different industries. This is a great crossover because we often need to get out of our own box. If something is working at a candle shop, maybe the process could work in a pet store. It reminds me to think differently and more forwardthinking.

Favorite business book:

EMyth

Favorite book:

Natural Health Bible for Dogs and Cats by Shawn Messonnier, DVM

Best advice ever given:

My Daddon’t sweat the small stuff….and it’s all small stuff.

Advice for a new store owner:

Hire what you don’t know. Do what you enjoy and don’t be afraid to give up responsibilities. You will be much happier and your store will flourish.

If I’d known  …

To hire more employees then, life would have been a whole lot easier.

What superpower would you like to have?

Flying in a wink

What’s the best customer service you’ve ever experienced?

I bought a Cadillac in 1995, and they still keep in touch (even though I sold it many years ago). The receptionist greets you at service, they wash your car even if you don’t get anything done. That is exceptional. I think it all stems from being a “giver” and knowing it will be returned. When it was time to purchase another vehicle, I stopped at their lot first (and bought a used Buick) however, knowing their service, I knew I would not be disappointed.

Tell me about your perfect day.

My husband and I went to Italy. Best day ever, riding a gondola, eating in a corner restaurant and renewing our wedding vows of 40 years. We both cried.

What’s the toughest thing you’ve ever had to do professionally?

I think sharing the sadness in our profession, over the loss of a pet is truly the hardest thing. We cry with our clients and feel their grief with them.

When I meet people, the first thing I notice about them is …

Their sincerity.

Favorite film:

Gone with the Wind. Who can resist Clark Gable telling Scarlett “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Don’t we all have days like that?

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Best vacation ever

Wind Surf Mediterranean Cruise to Italy, Croatia and Germany. Largest sail ship in the world. Loved it!

Favorite job at work that doesn’t involve customers:

Marketing. It’s fun to go create and watch it become a success

Current career goal

Working on becoming a Clinical Pet Nutritionist. I’m looking forward to helping people and their pets on a deeper level.

Current life goal

Some day passing the business on to our family and living in a warmer beach climate. Not retired, cause I don’t think that would be any fun:)

Favorite store that’s not my own

I really like Happy Dog Barkery. They provide us some of our bakery items. They are on a Main Street with a park for their events right across the street. How cool is that? Their place must smell delicious!

I am most frustrated when …

Vendors drop in unannounced. Running a business doesn’t require one to be at the store all the time. The reps just drop in unannounced, taking up my employees’ time because they missed me. Having been a medical rep, I understand the sales process and you need to get to the person that makes the decisions. So, why not set up an appointment with the person you ultimately need to influence?

I am happiest when …

I have helped solve a clients problem for their pet whether it be food, a supplement or a toy.

Weekend activity

Camping and enjoying the outdoors

The thing I worry about that I know I shouldn’t:

You know, I try not to worry. I would rather think things out and figure out a solution. I hate wasting my energies on worrying which resolves nothing. Either you can do something about the situation or you can’t. And, usually if you think about the solution you can do something! Remove the worry and resolve the issue.

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Loyal Biscuit Co. Grows to 5 Stores, Maintains Hometown Charm

From a favorite store to five locations, this Maine store spreads the hometown element across the state.

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Loyal Biscuit Co., Rockland, ME

OWNERS: Heidi & Joel Neal; URL: loyalbiscuit.com; FOUNDED: 2007 ; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2016; EMPLOYEES: 4 full-time, 15 part-time; AREA: 2,700 square feet of retail space; FACEBOOK: /loyalbiscuit; INSTAGRAM: /loyalbiscuit


IN DECEMBER 2009, Heidi Neal told her then-boyfriend Joel that if she ever were to leave banking to buy a business, it would be for Loyal Biscuit Co. The couple shopped there with their dog Fenway, and Heidi adored the store. Joel encouraged her to approach its owner.

She did on Dec. 14. Not only was Loyal Biscuit Co. in her hometown of Rockland, ME, on the market, but if it didn’t sell by year’s end, the store would close.

“We were in the right place at the right time,” Heidi says. “I had proceeds from selling my house to move in with Joel, and the owner financed the rest. We made the offer on Dec. 15, and by Jan. 19 we had bought the store.”

Since then, Heidi — with support from now-husband Joel, a Rockland Police Department detective sergeant — has grown the business, moving the flagship store into a much larger building they were able to purchase and opening four smaller locations in the state.

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Historic Charm

Dating back to 1865, the building itself makes up much of the store’s design. Red and brown brick walls meet pale wood floors. A traditional staircase leads up to a large mural of Loyal Biscuit Co.’s logo — starring Fenway and a kitty friend — as well as to offices and a mezzanine, around which pet-centric quotes display on chalkboard paint. Lime green from the original location carries through to the new, with purple, teal and orange added as accent colors. Third and fourth floors serve as storage for now.

The Neals took out a Small Business Association 504 loan, which only requires 10 percent down, to purchase the building. Owning the property not only provides location stability, but Heidi also appreciates the hometown element.

“Born and raised in Rockland, and now owning a business and building where I can look out the back window and see where I was born is pretty darn cool,” she says.

Like Family

Just as Heidi feels a sense of belonging in her hometown, she strives to create the same for staff at Loyal Biscuit Co. Employees from all five stores belong to a private Facebook group, where they get direction and praise, and can even share silly pet memes.

Company updates regularly go out via video. And each location has a budget for a monthly lunch or treats such as coffee or cupcakes.

The stores also close for a day each January so everyone can attend the team appreciation party. Heidi rents the gaming center at a centrally located resort and caters lunch.

“It’s fun. We hand out prizes. Everyone gets a gift,” she says. “We have a staff that is like family. We work, laugh, celebrate, cry and help each other when needed.”

Community Involvement

Heidi welcomes customers into the Loyal Biscuit Co. family as well. She does so by providing nutritional guidance for their pets and by only carrying products that boost health and happiness.

“There is nothing better than having someone come back to the store and tell us how much our recommendation has helped their dog or cat,” Heidi says.

Customers also find opportunities to help others in their community and state.

Each year, the store partners with a local bar in Pints for Paws, a concert and silent auction that has raised more than $30,000 for local animal shelters since its inception. Annual microchipping and monthly nail clipping events also benefit animals in need.

“Most of the events have some sort of community element to them. We raised over $7,000 last year alone from our nail-clipping clinics.”

Loyal Biscuit Co. even manufacturers and sells the Tug ME Toy, which provides work for prisoners at nearby Charleston Correctional Facility. The store — that is, Heidi’s dad — sends strips of polyester fleece to the workers, who then tightly braid them into the tug before returning them for trimming and tagging.

“Their work doesn’t require tools or scissors, just their muscle and time.”

About 2,000 toys sell each year through the stores and via wholesale. While not a major earner, it serves as an extension of the Neals’ investment in the pets and people of their hometown and beyond.

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PHOTO GALLERY (7 IMAGES)

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Five Cool Things About Loyal Biscuit Co.

1. HEIDI NEAL GOES TO WASHINGTON: In 2015, she earned the Small Business Person of the Year award from the Maine Small Business Association. “It was so cool to be able to represent the state at the White House,” she says.

2. ELF ON THE SHELF: During the 2017 holidays, employee Dave Taylor wore an elf hat to work. “He looked like a real elf on the shelf,” Heidi says. Taylor now spends the season posing in different parts of the store for social media caption contests and fundraising posts.

3. STORE-BRAND TREATS: Customer-turned-employee April Thibodeau created the Fidelis Biscuit Co. treat line, which contains organic, locally sourced ingredients and comes in a refillable tin.

4. WAY TO GO, CHAMP!: Fenway took home World Championship Boatyard Dog honors in 2011.

5. HIGH STANDARDS: Heidi didn’t just jump on the CBD bandwagon. “I wanted to make sure the company we chose had a good reputation and offered training and support. If I don’t understand it, I can’t expect our staff to either and to relay correct information to the customer.” The store now carries Super Snouts CBD products.

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Strong, Steady Growth — A California Store Looks to Franchise

A California store rules at raw food.

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Ben’s Barketplace, Roseville, CA

OWNERS: Brad & Sally Romero; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2010;EMPLOYEES: 2 full-time ; AREA: 2,850 square feet; FACEBOOK: /bensbarketplace; INSTAGRAM: /bensbarketplace


A S FORMER LAW ENFORCEMENT PROFESSIONALS, Brad and Sally Romero understand the importance of partnerships. They founded Ben’s Barketplace together in 2005. To determine the best possible diets for pets, the couple work with integrative veterinarians and ask customers to answer detailed questionnaires. Such synergy has helped thousands of dogs and cats, and has grown the Roseville store into the largest independent retailer of raw pet food in California. “We sell an average of 500 pounds a day,” Brad says with pride.

Partners in Pet Nutrition

Brad worked as a K-9 officer and trainer for the California Highway Patrol. Sally also worked for the CHP before serving in the state’s Department of Justice. They point to his first K-9 partner as inspiration for their store. The yellow Labrador Retriever came to them in 1998 on a diet with much room for improvement.

“I knew there had to be higher-quality food available,” Brad recalls.

Thus sparked a passion for pet nutrition that has evolved into a focus on raw. Ben’s Barketplace has one walk-in and 20 stand-up freezers. Brands include Northwest Naturals, Stella and Chewy’s, Small Batch, Bones & Co., Vital Essentials, Instinct, Primal, Raw Bistro, Tucker’s, Bravo and My Perfect Pet.

“Diet is the foundation for good health. We are now huge advocates of species-correct raw diets,” Brad says.

Area integrative vets regularly refer patients for nutrition consultations, which are available for free on-site and for $50 over the phone.

“It’s something we do every day. We go through the questionnaire, which covers everything from medical and diet history to activity level and grooming. We then formulate a plan,” Sally explains.

Brad adds, “Our recommendations are simple dietary solutions that cleanse the animal naturally, utilizing a proper and laser-focused nutritional protocol and supplements to achieve their optimal health.”

Their success in helping pets with cancer — including his second K-9 Nikita, a Belgian Malinois who developed hemangiosarcoma — as well as diabetes and many other conditions has led to the positive word of mouth that serves as the store’s main advertising.

“Our consultations are really our brand,” Brad says. “It’s not what we have. It’s knowing what to do with what we have. We are a nutritional consultation service surrounded by the highest quality food in North America.”

Partners in Store Design

Ben’s Barketplace opened in Lincoln, but moved to its current location in Roseville five years later. It wasn’t until then that the couple were able to create the store of their dreams.

“In my previous career, I was a certified welder, so I designed the store and made nearly everything in it,” Brad says. “Sally was the decorator.”

His welding work can be seen in food racks throughout the 2,850-foot space as well as in the “Ben’s Bone Yard,” a standalone chew bar made from wood and steel. An exposed ceiling and concrete floors, plus painted brickwork and interior signage by artist Kristina Letson, complete the industrial aesthetic.

The owners love their design and recreated it, with help from Letson, in their recently opened second store, back in Lincoln. It also serves as the template for franchises.

Partners in Expansion

Brad and Sally have decided that managing their two corporate stores, along with a third due in 2020, will keep them plenty busy and that all other Ben’s Barketplace locations will been owned and operated by franchisees.

“I want people who will have a vested interest in making the store the best it can be,” Sally says, explaining their decision.

Brad adds, “We’re not looking to grow too fast, though. We don’t want to be the McDonald’s of the pet food world. We want stores that will last and have strong, steady growth.”

The first franchise location, in Citrus Heights, opened in late 2018. To interest and inform potential franchises, they launched ownabens.com.

PHOTO GALLERY (8 IMAGES)

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Five Cool Things About Ben’s Barketplace

1. FROM FAILED HUNTING DOG TO K-9 CHAMP: Born in England, Ben of Barketplace fame came to the U.S. as a hunting dog. He didn’t do so well, mouthing the ducks a bit too much. Ben went on to train as a drug detection dog. He graduated at the top of his class and partnered with Brad. The pair located more than $27 million in illegal narcotics during their time together. They also competed in K-9 trials, with Ben taking home the narcotics detection championship in 1999.

2. TEXT INSTEAD OF TALK: When customers have a question or need to place an order, they can simply send a text. The message converts via Zipwhip and appears on the store’s point-of-sale system screen, alerting employees and allowing them to instantly respond.

3. KNOW THY CUSTOMER: Brad and Sally believe that “Customers are a business’s life blood, but not everyone is your customer.” They understand that not everyone will want to spend more than they are used to for a raw or other high-quality diet. Knowing that allows them to focus their time on those who will.

4. CUSTOMER TESTIMONIALS: To promote their nutrition consultations, Brad and Sally ask pet parents to share their experiences on video for the store’s social media platforms. Viewers can learn how they helped diabetic Tyson, yeasty Rocco and overweight Odin drastically improve their health.

5. NUTRITION SCHOOL: Employees at Ben’s Barketplace take online courses to become certified pet nutritionists — the better to help itchy, fatty and otherwise unhealthy dogs and cats!

ONLINE EXTRA: Q&A for Brad Romero

One gadget

MIG welder

Favorite book

The Bible

Best advice ever given

Not everyone is your customer

Advice for a new storeowner

It’s your child. Keep it healthy through dedication, education and love.

I drive a pickup. If I could choose any car…

It would be a pickup.

What superpower would you like to have?

To save every dog in a shelter or poor living conditions.

What’s the best customer service you’ve ever experienced?

A local heating and air company. The owner gave a bid. They arrived and completed a large job in one day for half the price of competitors. And sent a qualitycontrol employee two weeks later to ensure everything was completed correctly. He found a larger error and had it fixed the next day.

Tell me about your perfect day.

A day on the beach with my dogs!

What’s the toughest thing you’ve ever had to do professionally?

Notify a family of the death of a loved one.

If your store were on fire, what’s the one thing you’d save?

My dogs

If money were no object…

I’d put another walk in freezer in my store.

Favorite job at work that doesn’t involve customers

Training customers how to handle their dog properly without poor training equipment like gentle leaders.

If I weren’t a pet business owner…

I’d be retired.

Current career goal

None

Current life goal

Longevity

Favorite store that’s not my own

The Raw Connection in Carmel Valley, CA

I am most frustrated when …

Customers believe their veterinarian is a nutritional expert.

I am happiest when…

I am with my dogs.

The thing I worry about that I know I shouldn’t

Losing my dogs

Q&A for Sally Romero

One plane ticket

Anywhere, but definitely roundtrip.

Advice for a new store owner

Know that every customer has a choice in where they shop and treat them accordingly.

Tell me about your perfect day.

Wake up without an alarm, enjoy a cup of tea at my local coffee shop, stop by my stores but not have to stay until closing, enjoy a homecooked dinner.

What’s the toughest thing you’ve ever had to do professionally?

Learn to say no to telemarketers. It’s quite easy now.

If your store were on fire, what’s the one thing you’d save?

My dogs. They are at work with me most days.

Advertising campaign I wish I’d thought of.

I’m not creative at all, so I’m quite happy to have creative people around me that can think of these things.

If money were no object, I’d do ———— to my store.

Expand it and add products and employees.

When I meet people, the first thing I notice about them is _____.

Their eyes.

If I weren’t a pet business owner, I’d be …

A volunteer at a rescue.

My hero is …

My dad. He’s my hero and my role model.

Favorite store that’s not my own

The Raw Connection in Carmel Valley, CA

I am most frustrated when …

I cannot get everything done due to time constraints.

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