Catering to Posh Pets
With its flagship â€œLifestyle Centerâ€ in Beverly Hills, Calif., Pussy & Pooch is redefining what a pet store can be.
Not all pet specialty stores are created equal. Some are simply that—honest-to-goodness pet specialty stores. Others aspire to be more. California-based Pussy & Pooch falls into the latter category.
Entrepreneur Janene Zakrajsek describes her growing chain of stores as lifestyle destinations—for pets. While the lofty designation may seem grandiose to some, Zakrajsek’s creation has not been in vain. In the seven years since she debuted her first location in Downtown Los Angeles, she has established a following of customers who love the stores as much for their services and atypically compelling aesthetics, as they do for their assortment of everyday basic food, treats and supplies.
Pussy & Pooch, winner of the 2014 Global Pet Expo Retailer Excellence Award for In-Store Design, has four locations—Los Angeles, Belmont Shore, Beverly Hills and Long Beach (the sole retail-only shop). To varying degrees, the other three offer a range of services—full-service grooming, self-service dog washing, dog training and daycare. However, the brand’s newest location, which debuted in Beverly Hills less than a year ago, has taken pet retail and service to new heights.
“With the new store, it was our opportunity to take it up several notches and create a world-class experience,” Zakrajsek says. “We set out to create a very human experience, but for pets.”
The word among many of Pussy & Pooch’s customers, she says, is that Fred Segal may have met its match—at least, in the pet retail arena. Like California’s famed brand-driven and eclectic Fred Segal stores, where the hip can outfit and pamper themselves from head to toe, the Pussy & Pooch Pet Lifestyle Center in Beverly Hills takes a 360-degree approach to pet fashion, supplies, nutrition and overall well-being.
A 12,000-square-foot pet mecca, located a few blocks from Rodeo Drive, the location boasts the full gamut of the chain’s diverse services and retail offerings—and then some. For example, the Wellness Spa, which is exclusive to this location, is staffed by holistic veterinarians who offer in-store physical exams and consultations three times a week. The spa’s service menu is a smorgasbord of new-age and traditional treatments including acupressure and acupuncture, energy work, laser therapy, chiropractic care, herbal medicine and anesthetic-free dental care.
Also among the store’s highlight is its Pawbar. Modeled loosely after a sushi bar and located in the Pussy & Pooch’s Meat Market department, the Pawbar was originally designed as a space in the L.A. location where pet owners can buy a raw meal for their pets to eat right on the spot—the bar has been particularly useful for promoting the benefits of raw diets to the uninitiated. In partnership with pet-food manufacturer The Honest Kitchen, the Beverly Hills store has expanded the concept to offer a seasonal menu of baked and cooked foods prepared on the premises.
“It’s like a social experience in the store, where people can buy a meal or snack for their animal,” Zakrajsek says, “but most importantly, it functions as an [educational] tool for us. It helps to open the conversation with the clients about nutrition.”
Meanwhile, Pussy & Pooch’s services in no way outshine the retail side of the house. The sprawling sales floor is unified in its modern, sleek aesthetic, yet it is divided into thoughtfully curated sections showcasing the store’s vibrant selection. The product assortment includes everything from food and treats to collars, leashes, beds and apparel. Interspersed among the sales floor’s displays are several of what Zakrajsek refers to as store-within-store concepts. “The idea was to have [product manufacturers] present their full collection, or the collection as they wanted it, in our space, versus my edited selection of a handful of assortment,” she says. Brands include Jax & Bones, Sleepypod and LuxeMutt.
Befitting of the location’s clientele, the assortment is also complemented by an ultra-luxury, high-end set housed in the store’s Champagne Room—a shop-within-a-shop destination featuring several brands.
“We added price points [in the Beverly Hills location] that we don’t have in the other stores,” says Zakrajsek. “We added luxury collections, couture, European collections and things that are more exclusive, but we designated them in their own special area. [This way] it doesn’t take away from who Pussy & Pooch is and what our typical collections are all about—which is modern, functional and design forward.”
She says the product selection has indeed hit its mark, as the customer base at the store tends to lean toward the boutique end of the retail assortment, focusing more on fashion and luxury items than on food or other essentials.
“It’s not surprising,” she says. “This kind of clientele needs to have a matching collar, leash and ID tag for every outing, and multiple beds for multiple homes.”
Zakrajsek is nonetheless committed to making sure customers’ pets are taking care from nose to tail and from inside, out.
“Our other stores do significant volume in food and supplies,” she says. “We are still working with clients [in Beverly Hills] to take them back to the basis, to get them on the nutrition program, as well. That is something we are very passionate about.”
As evidenced by her win of the Retailer Excellence Award for in-store design, however, she is equally impassioned about the look, feel and layout of her stores. Her attention to detail has been applied throughout, from the signature wallpaper and the well-designed state-of-the-art service areas to the air-filtration system that keeps the air fresh even when there are as many dogs present as people.
Even the bathrooms bear the mark of a design-focused entrepreneur. “We have really big graphic silhouettes of a cat grooming herself in the ladies room, and of a dog pooping in the men’s room,” Zakrajsek says. “It really pushes the envelope a little, and it is meant to be edgy, but it is also fun and playful.”
Award worthy as the store’s layout and appearance may be, however, she knows that her stores frequently cater to clients with an eye for detail, making the fine points key to success. She was mindful of the demographics from the beginning. During the design of the first location, she knew the store would need to appeal to a design-forward customer base—for example, artists and professionals in the entertainment and design industries. Since then, the stores have kept true to the original vision, Zakrajsek says. The addition of the Beverly Hills Pussy & Pooch merely allowed the brand to amplify and expand all that she had set in motion years ago in L.A.
“Putting the store right in the limelight in the golden triangle of Beverly Hills,” she says, “is kind of just like the icing on the cake.”