Over the past few years consumers have been taking a much more conscientious approach to purchasing products that are environmentally friendly and better for their well-being. And it seems that we’re applying the same thought process when it comes to buying for our furry friends.

The Puppy Pantry has a wide range of holistic dog food available

Pet owners are turning to premium pet foods packed with natural ingredients and proteins such as real chicken, lamb, or salmon. Also growing in popularity among holistic products for pets are shampoos containing essential oil blends that act as a natural pesticide while simultaneously moisturizing and conditioning a pet’s hair and skin. Some pet retailers are even providing services that go beyond the average neighborhood pet store, separating their customer care from the pack.

Holistic Pet offers furry friends some delicious treats

We spoke with Richard Dupraw, owner of Holistic Pet at Sunset Mall in Portland, Oregon, and Tom Poundstone, family business owner of The Puppy Pantry at Village Shoppes - Flowery Branch in Flowery Branch, Georgia, about their experiences in the pet industry and the holistic products and services they offer at their shops.

Tell us about your pet shop and how you got into the business.

Richard Dupraw: I have been in the pet industry for 25 years. I worked as a representative for a large distributor as well as for two pet food manufacturers. Holistic Pet has been at Sunset Mall for five years in November, and I have owned it for 18 months. I like that Sunset Mall’s location is in the center of a great neighborhood, has easy access to freeways, and has a diverse group of businesses that pull people in to the shopping center.

Tom Poundstone: The Puppy Pantry is a family-owned and created business. My daughter, Heather Nichols, is a graphic designer and she created the name, logo, and store look and feel. My son-in-law, Brian Nichols, manages all three locations and chose all of the products. My wife helps manage the Braselton location and I am an electrical contractor, so I helped with the construction side and financing the business.

We opened in 2012 in Buford, expanded that location to include boarding and daycare in 2013, added our Braselton location in 2015, and Flowery Branch six months ago. We wanted to bring quality pet products and top notch customer service to our local community. We chose the Village Shoppes for the location. We wanted to be in the Flowery Branch area, and many of our target customers shop at Publix, so we have placed two of our locations in Publix shopping centers.

What types of unique products and customer services do you provide?

Dupraw: Holistic Pet offers all kinds of natural pet foods and supplies for dogs and cats. We also offer a self-serve dog wash, and have professional groomers on site.

Poundstone: Premium pet food, supplies, and grooming. Brian Nichols is trained and certified in pet first aid and CPR. We train and certify all of our staff, and Brian holds occasional classes to certify others.

Who is your typical customer?

Dupraw: We don't have a typical customer, except to say our customers are typically pet owners, or have family and friends that own pets. Our clientele is very diverse. People of all ages and backgrounds come in from the surrounding area. However, our unique products draw people in from all over the state.

Poundstone: Typically pet owners and women ages 24 to 65.

The Puppy Pantry’s offerings at Kimco’s Village Shoppes - Flowery Branch

What are some of your favorite holistic pet products?

Poundstone: My favorites are our raw diet food and treats. We also serve unique treats and chews such as antlers and chicken feet.

Dupraw: We carry a good mix of pet foods here in the store that you won't find in most stores. Zignature is one of our fastest growing dog foods because it provides an option for dogs who have food allergies or sensitivities. The whole line is chicken-and potato-free with protein sources as unique as kangaroo! We also have a huge following for an all-natural flea treatment called Wondercide, which uses cedar oil to drive away the bugs. Another great brand you won't find most places is kin+kind! They make great dog shampoos and supplements. Finally, I would point out our large selection of raw foods, bones, and goat’s milk.

The Puppy Pantry offers raw diet foods and treats

What makes your shop different from any other pet service provider?

Poundstone: The Pet Pantry’s customer service and high quality product offering is what makes us different. We pride ourselves on our customer service and our extensive knowledge on all of our products. We train our whole staff to know all the ins and outs of our foods and products so they can give a custom food consultation.

Dupraw: Holistic Pet is different in a number of ways. We have a knowledgeable staff than can help you find products for any dog and cat need. We carry a large selection of products at very reasonable prices. We can often find a natural product that is close in price to a grocery store product, but with huge health benefits. Another thing that sets us apart is our four-bay self-serve dog wash. We provide everything but the dog! The bay tubs are very large with easy access. We provide shampoo, conditioner, brushes, combs, ear cleaner, treats, and more. Air dryers, towels, and special ramps for older or handicapped dogs are also included in our self-serve dog wash station. We see about 100 customers a week between grooming and self-serve.

As for events, we do a large customer appreciation sale at the end of August each year. We also offer training classes throughout the year as we have a certified dog trainer and behaviorist on staff. There are a variety of different individual events through the year for adoption help or special sales.

The Puppy Pantry offers pet daycare at their locations

How do you market yourself to consumers?

Dupraw: We market the community through our website, Yelp, Facebook, local advertising including The Cedar Mill News, and a local shopper mailer. We also sponsor events at the local high school, and have connections with several vet clinics and the local college that teaches nutrition and veterinary studies.

Poundstone: Social media, local publications, local signage, local school sponsorship programs, and more. We are also about to run our first TV commercial!

What advice do you have for pet retailers just starting out?

Poundstone: Consider a franchise! The Puppy Pantry is a franchise available for sale in the U.S. We have already gone through all the hard work of figuring out product mix, marketing strategies and establishing buying power. Let us help you!

Dupraw: Be passionate, do your research, ask a lot of questions to a lot of different people, make friends in the industry, and find your niche!

This has been an installment of StoreFront, an interview series with leaders of successful retail businesses. For more interviews, visit the StoreFront page. To learn how you can be featured, email us. We’d love to hear from you.