It’s safe to say that our pets hold a special place in our hearts, but over the past year and a half the bond has grown: they have become our colleagues, CEOs of the house, and family members. beloved.
As such, our furry friends have apparently received extra special treatment since switching to remote working. In 2019, we spent $ 97.1 billion on pets, which jumped to $ 103.6 billion in 2020, and is expected to climb to $ 109.6 billion in 2021, according to American Pet Products. Association.
For Mutts et Cie. Owners Deborah and Mark Vitt, the surge in pet-related purchases has been reflected in their sales, but they’ve been committed to providing high-quality pet supplies for almost 15 years.
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Mutts and Co. is a local pet supply store with 70 employees and seven locations in central Ohio that focuses on providing all-natural foods and treats, toys and more for cats and dogs. It was founded by Deborah in Dublin in 2007 after moving to Ohio from California with her husband and realizing there was a gap in the market.
In California, Deborah says, there was a more widely accepted holistic approach, and pet stores had already embraced natural foods and treats. In Ohio, it was lacking.
And Deborah already had experience in the business world – she worked in New York for Gap at Old Navy before being recruited for The Limited in Columbus, where she met Mark, then was recruited by Gap, in again, to work in California. The two eventually returned to Ohio. Mark worked at JPMorgan Chase, while Deborah devoted herself full time to founding Mutts & Co.
Although she feels comfortable opening the store with her corporate background, much of her reasoning has come from a passion. The duo are committed to raising rescue dogs and welcoming dogs, and Deborah has spent over a year researching the market. But even so, they both shared one big concern: The store opened during the height of the mortgage crisis. Still, they were confident the pet supply market would survive, Deborah says.
“It was a little scary knowing if it was the right time, when people were losing their 401 (K) and unemployment rates were so high,” says Mark. “But we found that people were still drawn to their pets and would even cut back on their own expenses just so they could accommodate the good things for their pets, their four-legged family members.”
Mutts and Co. not only survived, but thrived. In 2016, Mark was able to join Deborah full-time when they opened their Westerville, Upper Arlington and Hilliard stores, which proved the store to be more than an anomaly, he says.
In addition to the food, treats, toys and health products available at the pet store, she also offers professional grooming services that only allow one dog at a time on a schedule like a real salon, for make sure dogs are not stressed out while sitting. cages for hours before their haircuts. There is also a walk-in self-grooming option that includes separate wash bays to avoid conflict with other dogs. Everything you need is provided, customers just do the job, says Mark.
The specialized and focused premise of their grooming services is just one aspect that sets them apart as a family pet store from big box retailers, Deborah says, but for the most part, they pride themselves on being what these great companies are: personalized, knowledgeable and rooted in the community.
For example, when talking about the Petcos, PetSmarts and Chewys of the world, Mark is quick to point out a story that an employee told him, who joined the team after working for a larger pet supplies retailer. : When a customer walks into a store, they’ve been told to limit the conversation to 90 seconds. But for him and Deborah, that should only be the start: there is no clock on customer engagement.
“We want to ask questions, we want to know their pets, we want to know them as people, we want to know the age, allergy issues and activity level of their pets,” says Mark. “The first 90 seconds should be a time for us to ask them questions, and then we can really start to understand what their needs might be. “
Dublin Store Manager Patricia Morrison appreciates the personalized approach, noting that she got to know the pets and the people behind them, often watching furry friends grow up, have a new sibling and achieve milestones.
“It’s our drive to really dig in and learn more about all of the products we offer, and how they can and will benefit pets,” Morrison said. “And having the opportunity to take the time to dig in with our clients and have these longer conversations about nutrition, and why something could be better.”
Roots in the community is another aspect that sets a local pet store apart from its competition. Mutts & Co. has several partnerships – in particular, Morrison loves selling the birthday dog treats, which are made by Amy Nutter with Beehive Bread Co., a small batch bakery in Powell that made puppy cakes. for the animal. store since the beginning of this year.
“I think it’s a great little story about two small, family-owned, local businesses that team up to work together,” says Nutter. “Rather than buying something from a big factory, they chose to go locally, and it benefits them, it benefits us.”
Her puppy cakes come in a variety of colors and are made as simple as desserts for humans, she says, with different ingredients. She replenishes the stores about once a week.
Other major community partnerships include the Rascal unit, which brings its mobile wellness clinic to the company’s seven sites 26 times a year on a rotating basis for low-cost vaccines, and local rescues like I Have a Dream, Humane Society of Delaware County and the Powell Animal Welfare Society.
The store is also partnering with rescues for adoption events. Before the pandemic, Deborah liked to run the Fetch a Friend adoption program with rescues in central Ohio, which took more than a year of planning, but with restrictions it was put on hiatus.
In accordance with COVID guidelines, Mutts & Co., also closed its grooming services from March to June 2020, but even so, the Vitts felt ready for the challenge of a pandemic – after all, their business was founded in chaos.
Deborah had originally built the company’s website with the ability to handle curbside pickup and delivery, and since the pandemic they’ve been receiving around 12-15 online orders per day and can ship in 48 States with supplies from their distribution stores in Lewis Center and Westerville.
And instead of seeing a decline in business, sales have grown and their customer demographics have also become more focused, leaning more toward millennials who have likely recently adopted – Mark calls it pandemic puppy syndrome. His observation was held true across the United States, with 32% of pet parents being millennials, according to the American Pet Product Association’s 2021-2022 survey of pet owners. Baby boomers are in second place with 27 percent.
“These are kids who may be having their first couple pet,” says Mark. “Before starting a two-legged family, they started a four-legged family. These are people who say, “I’m going to start well and do everything right from the start.” “
They have also noticed an increase in the number of more occupying and interactive toys and treats, as well as an increased concern for the health of pets, now that people are working from home and may notice things like anxiety and pain. skin problems, says Mark.
The success even allowed Mutts & Co. to expand this year, with the opening of its seventh location in Grove City in July. The location may be one of the strongest symbols of COVID-19 adjustments – it features the store’s first Doggy Drive Thru, allowing customers to pass and grab food, treats, toys, and more without get out of their car.
Vitts are also entering the wholesale business with their two product lines, Pet Foundry, a pet clothing, candle and bed company, and Boneanza Treat Co., their own line of imported treats. direct from their South American stores and chemical free. dog treats.
Boneanza Treat Co. and Pet Foundry are currently not available in stores outside of Mutts & Co., but they hope to go this route in the future, Deborah says. A portion of the sales will also be donated to non-profit organizations with which Mutts & Co. has worked in the past.
As Mutts & Co. grows and Deborah and Mark brainstorm new ways to develop their passion for pets, they are making one thing known: They are committed to serving the community.
“We’re proud to be the largest family-owned pet supply store in central Ohio,” says Mark. “We are thrilled to be a part of central Ohio. We started here, we operate exclusively here, we have continued to grow here and we want to continue to grow here.
Mutts & Co.
Society: Pet supply store offering natural and holistic foods, treats, health products, and toys for dogs and cats
Locations in: Dublin, New Albany, Westerville, Upper Arlington, Hilliard, Lewis Center and Grove City
Founders: Deborah and Mark Vitt
2020 turnover: would not disclose