Independent Stores


A couple of weeks ago, I found myself in the highly unusual (for me) position of being in a strange city and ready for my flight home more than an hour before I needed to go to the airport. So I killed time by asking my phone to direct me to a nearby pet supply store. Some national chain stores populated the list, but then I recognized the name of a small, regional chain, Centinela Feed. I hadn’t been to one of those stores before, but I knew that the folks who own the chain are also behind Lotus Pet Food. They had invited me a few years ago to tour and take pictures and video of the canning facility they built, where they make Lotus’s canned foods. But I hadn’t had time on that trip to visit any of their stores.

I am a huge fan of independent pet supply stores – and this includes these small, regional chains. You can visit the big super chains every week for a year and not see more than one or two new items; in a single one-hour visit to a single independent store, I saw more unique and helpful items, and new pet foods and treats, than I had in ages. Clearly, I have to get out more!

The other really cool thing about independents: Many store owners are building or remodeling their stores to meet pet owners other needs, for training, routine veterinary care, daycare, bathing, and more. The Centinela store I visited had a doggie daycare and self-bathing facility in the store, and dog-training classes were offered during certain hours. When time is at a premium, being able to meet so many of your dog’s needs in one visit is really a huge help.

The store I visited had the largest selection of frozen raw diets I had ever seen, including a couple I had never seen; that’s something that the giant chains just won’t offer. It also offered a really wide selection of treats made from local and organic suppliers. I’m super fussy about the chews and treats I buy; if there is possibility the ingredients come from China, or the packaging is the least bit unclear about the origin of the ingredients, forget it, I won’t buy them. I found a number of locally sourced treats in this store, as well as some varieties from some of the national companies I do like that I hadn’t seen before.

All in all, I highly recommend the experience. It’s easy to get into a rut and go to the same store every time you need pet food or other supplies. But it’s worth it to take some time to check out stores you’ve never visited before, especially the independently owned and operated ones.

What’s your favorite independent store or chain? Let some of our readers know about the good ones!