Why did you expand your business to Hallowell and why is now the best time to do that?

Nate Rudy, the (Hallowell city) manager, reached out to us last fall to explore expansion opportunities in Hallowell. For us, last fall just wasn’t a good time. Heading into the Christmas season is just not a time we like to expand because it’s just too busy. When spring rolled around and we were in a good place, I went over and looked at Hallowell. I also looked at Gardiner, but I really liked what Hallowell had to offer and the downtown vibe.

PetLife just closed in June in Augusta and we’ve seen some of that traffic … in our Waterville store. By sliding into Hallowell, it seemed like a great area to compensate for the loss of PetLife. But, also Hallowell is just such a cool little town and it’s a good fit for us.

What’s your biggest challenge right now?

Staffing is always a challenge, especially on the coast. (People) moving in and out, and just not enough workers in general. It’s something that every business in Rockland, Camden (or) Belfast has trouble with. In Hallowell, Waterville and Brewer, things have not been as challenging. We have a bigger pool to pick from when we are hiring.

Online sales and trying to compete (against other stores that sell online). People seem to have the misconception that (because) we are brick-and-mortar and in a downtown district that we have to be more expensive. Nine times out of 10, our food prices are actually better than what you find online and we have frequent buyer programs.

What skills do you value most in an employee as an employer?

Personality. My philosophy is I can train anybody to do just about anything. I can teach you the nutrition, I can teach you our systems, but I can’t teach you to be kind. I look for people that are genuinely nice and want to help other people. Part of what we do is educating customers on nutrition and the products that are out there, and helping find the best diet for their dogs and cats. If you don’t want to relay that information and you don’t want to be kind in how you do, you’re just not going to work with us.

Who influenced you in business the most?

I don’t have a specific person. I would have to go with other small business owners. Regardless of what business it is, I think we’re all in this together and we all, especially in downtown districts, work together to have a thriving community. I think we all pull off of each other for inspiration and want to work together to make where we live and … work a great place. What might benefit one, might not benefit another directly, but indirectly, it all comes back to you.

What is your biggest fear or concern?

My biggest fear or concern is disappointing my staff and my customers in some way. I feel a huge responsibility to my staff to make sure I’ve got everything for them. We build a big community in all the stores I’m in, failing them in some way is my biggest fear. They are trusting us with the health and well-being of their pets. We’re not vets and we don’t give medical advice by any means, but we are up on nutrition and can certainly make good recommendations that benefit their pets. We have spent the last 10 years building that trust with our customers and really making sure we’re on top of our game. It’s a big responsibility and messing that up is my fear.

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