At a time when buying pet supplies online from chain stores is as easy as ordering takeout, we wanted to find out how Northwest Philadelphia's independent pet shops are faring.
At a time when buying pet supplies online from chain stores is as easy as ordering takeout, we wanted to find out how Northwest Philadelphia's independent pet shops are faring. We discovered that they’re keeping pet owners and their furry friends loyal by offering unique services.
Our first stop was Queenie’s Pets, founded in 2006 on the corner of Germantown and Mt. Airy Avenues in Mt. Airy. When you enter, you will be greeted by a stealth ginger cat named Groton the Fisherman. “We call him Gortie for short,” said founder, president and CEO, Adina “Queenie” Silberstein.
“While we certainly have brands and formulas that we carry regularly on our shelves, we also will custom order nearly anything our clients and customers request,” Silberstein said. “Some folks think we only sell high-end brands, but we provide a wide range at Queenie's. For instance, we are one of only [a few] stores in the entire metro area that sells the brand Farmina, which is a top seller, but we also offer standbys like Purina.”
What makes Queenie’s unique?
Queenie’s offers a wide range of services including dog walking, pet sitting, new baby and new puppy orientation, and business coaching. Queenie’s also offers pet loss and grief support by appointment, a resource library, educational workshops and a lecture series.
“Having a highly- and continually-trained, passionate staff of caregivers who earn a living wage, as well as working together strongly as a team, lends itself to being able to consistently deliver exceptional service and care for your family,” Silberstein said
Silberstein, a graduate of American University as well as the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, said she’s moved her company to a membership model. She also provides leadership and entrepreneurial coaching.
“Members enjoy opportunities for special events, shopping discounts, social gatherings, and more,” she said.
Weavers Way Across the Way
Jon Roesser, general manager of Weavers Way, said the co-op’s pet supply business grew, not surprisingly, somewhat “organically.”
It started at their original location at 608-10 Carpenter Lane in Mt. Airy when employees began putting the shop’s pet and health supplies across the street from their small, overstuffed main store at the corner.
“For years, it was not staffed. Shoppers had to get a key code from the main store, walk across the street and shop for themselves - then they had to take the product back across the street so it could be checked out by a cashier,” Roesser said “It was terribly inconvenient.”
And that’s how “Across the Way” was born.
“Pet sales grew dramatically once we put in a register and started staffing the store,” Roesser said. But he is fighting a constant battle with what he calls the “online galoots.”
Brick-and-mortar grocers “have been losing market share to the onliners in categories like paper products and cleaning supplies for years. We are now seeing erosion in categories like vitamins and, yes, pet food,” he said.
But the co-op serves as much more than just a store, he said. It’s also a community anchor. So the community is inclined to support it - and Across the Way is able to thrive despite the encroachment of the onliners.
“We're fortunate to be in a community that truly values having a thriving retail hub,” Roesser said.
What makes Weavers Way Across the Way unique?
“We offer discounts on pet food and supplies to Weavers Way members and we also run sales for all shoppers,” said Anton Goldschneider, manager of the co-op’s pet department. “Plus, we provide home delivery and curbside pickup.”
The co-op also carries pet foods that appeal to owners with a preference for organic, natural and environmentally-friendly products, including Taste of the Wild, Open Farm, Fromm and Wellness. In keeping with a sustainable philosophy, the co-op sells Glad Dogs Nation toys, which are upcycled children’s toys that donate profits to groups that spay and neuter stray animals.
“Being in a smaller space, we are able to engage with shoppers much better than you can in a big box store, where you might wander through endless aisles without an employee in sight,” Goldschneider said. “Our knowledgeable staff is easily available for any pet care advice. Co-op members love the one-on-one service we provide. Our regular shoppers who bring their dogs into the store for a free treat say that it's the highlight of their animal companions' day.”
Note: The Weavers Way locations in Chestnut Hill and Ambler also have pet sections.
The Bone Appetite
Natalie Gladish, manager of The Bone Appetite, 8517 Germantown Ave., has a unique background for dealing with four-footed customers.
“I was a preschool teacher for 14 years,” said Gladish, which she thinks qualifies her to calm hyper French bull terriers and nervous Chihuahuas.
“Our best selling dry dog food is Fromm, a brand not sold by [online pet supply retailer] Chewy, and our most popular toy is the Kong that holds two kinds of treats,” Gladish said.
What makes The Bone Appetite unique?
If you find yourself avoiding giving your pooch a much needed washing, The Bone Appetite offers not just a grooming service by appointment, but hosts “Self Wash Sundays.” For just $15, you can use their tub, shampoos, conditioners, combs, towels and blow dryers for any size pup.
Looking for a new furry friend? The Bone Appetit partners with Brenda’s Cat Rescue, Pooch Caboose, and Noah’s Ark Rescue. On August 20, pet adoptions will also be available as part of Manayunk’s Dog Day of Summer, a pet-centered festival with vendors and activities on Main Street from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.