A Heritage of Helping
Through providing premium pet goods and coordinating community fundraising, Greenwich, Conn.-based Pet Pantry Warehouse has built a legacy of trust with its clients over more than 70 years.
While online resources, big-box retailers and specialty boutique shops continue to battle for consumer dollars, the Pet Pantry Warehouse retail chain has grown by cultivating a legacy based upon quality products and community connections. Since 1945, the brand has served the mission of founders Mort Davis and Jac Cohen by providing nutritious pet products and advocating for animal welfare.
“The company was ahead of its time; promoting pet food and products with advanced nutritional benefit,” says vice president Joshua Roth. “This type of forward thinking has become the cornerstone of our brand and provided much guidance in our quest to serve our pet patrons the very best pet products available on the market.”
During his World War II service, while stationed in England, Davis adopted a puppy from his overseas location. As he took the steps to return the canine home to the United States, Davis developed a friendship with fellow soldier Cohen, which grew into the Pet Pantry Warehouse partnership once the men returned home following the war. From the start, mentions Roth, the duo focused on providing only quality goods to the local community.
“They were making the food in the back of the warehouse,” he explains. “There were enormous cast-iron grinders when we bought the store. That was a part of the business. It was probably some of the best food made. It was ground meat.”
In addition to manufacturing its own brand of fresh pet food, Pet Pantry Warehouse was also an early provider of dietary supplements, including fish oil. As years passed and the demands of pet parents evolved to increase the popularity of top-shelf products, the company’s business formula didn’t require change, but its growth was inevitable.
A Culture of Quality
Expanding upon the business’ strong foundation, Pet Pantry Warehouse grew with the developing market. Bought by the Jacobson family in 1995, the company existed as a staple within the community. While the standards for pet products were different 20 years ago, the family recognized the importance of emphasizing pet health and nutrition through premium goods. They also understood that selling high-grade pet products requires much more dedication than simply scanning a bag of food at the register.
“We have been nationally recognized as a retailer that uses employee knowledge to pass that on to the customer,” explains Roth. “In today’s market, it is critical to create an in-store experience that sets you apart. The best way that we can do that is with a one-on-one exchange, whereby our customers can leave our store feeling as though they are gathering important knowledge about the health and nutrition of their pets and the healthiest products to give them.”
With this knowledge of the most suitable products to meet the needs of each client, Pet Pantry Warehouse also knows that pet parents require more incentive to become return customers. In addition to its Pet One Club—through which members earn loyalty rewards—the company promotes its monthly counter program initiative, working with manufacturers to feature a specific product for the month at a price point of approximately 99 cents, displayed in the checkout area. Roth reveals that through this program, Pet Pantry Warehouse increases revenue through a simple approach that engages manufacturers, educates employees and forges loyalty with customers.
“We put displays up at all of our locations and try to motivate staff to make it an add-on item,” he says. “The original inspiration was to get our average ticket up. It is a great measure of the success or failure of your budget goals. If you can average another five dollars a day that is huge to boost your numbers for the month.”
Though the program was developed as a strategy to increase monthly numbers, it serves as an opportunity to introduce pet parents to new products that they might otherwise bypass. Premium pet goods are often viewed by consumers as investment purchases, which do not always afford the opportunity to sample these products at a lower price point.
“I think that we place a strong emphasis on educating our staff on nutrition and that translates to the customers’ experiences when they trust us,” explains Roth. “So we don’t just throw anything out there. We are focused on the Stella and Chewy’s and Open Farms of the world, brands that have made a commitment to healthy treats. That is what we offer. It’s my favorite monthly merchandising opportunity.”
Roots in Rescue
Throughout the company’s history, Pet Pantry Warehouse can trace its lineage back to pet rescue, starting with the puppy that Davis adopted in World-War-II-era England. Building upon goodwill toward animals, the company continues to partner with organizations that afford better lives to pets. Working with groups such as Greyhound Rescue and Cat Assistance, Pet Pantry Warehouse sponsors in-store, weekend adoption events to support the movement to find loving homes for shelter animals.
The company doesn’t stop with regularly scheduled adoption opportunities, though. Partnering with the Greenwich, Conn.-based shelter Adopt-A-Dog, which serves Connecticut and New York, Pet Pantry Warehouse sponsors events such as Puttin’ on the Dog and Feed the Need. The latter event provides a calendar-year supply of dog and cat food to Adopt-A-Dog through a collaborative effort with Blue Buffalo and generous customer efforts. Though pet rescue can be serious business, Roth admits that helping animals can also be fun for human and furry customers.
“Pet Pantry Warehouse created a Halloween event that attracts hundreds of attendees in Greenwich called Howl and Prowl that has become a staple town event every October for the last nine years,” he says. “This ‘Party for Pets and People’ is a fun day that includes a costume contest, activities and giveaways for both pets and children that we look forward to growing in other store locations in 2017.”
Between Puttin’ on the Dog, Feed the Need and Howl and Prowl, the Pet Pantry Warehouse team has been able to raise more than $100,000 over the last three years. While these efforts are admirable, there is another cause that honors the mission of service and animal care established during the founders’ World War II military careers. Through its K9 Feeding Project, Pet Pantry Warehouse not only supplies officers with complimentary food to nourish their K9 partners, but ensures that the products are sourced from the finest brands.
“Providing for the care of K9 working dogs for not only local police departments, but the individual officers charged with their care is a huge financial burden to handle on their own,” says Roth. “By working with some of our pet food partners, Pet Pantry Warehouse provides the highest quality pet food on the market to these K9 dogs absolutely free of charge. The K9 Project is a great way to ensure that the amazing work of local K9 officers does not go unrewarded.”
By using a successful retail formula that blends effective sales strategies with genuine concern for the community, Pet Pantry Warehouse continues to grow with its clientele. As consumer attention continues to shift toward the most nutritious products to maximize pet wellness, retailers must change with these demands, yet there are greater opportunities for this company, as the brand has promoted these ideals from its inception.
“As a local family-owned business, we have been very careful to find the right types of communities to place our brand,” explains Roth, when discussing how Pet Pantry Warehouse chose its locations throughout Connecticut and New York.
“Communities where we can be actively engaged and participate in a grassroots level by fundraising for schools, helping to feed the police K9s, sponsoring sports and other worthy local institutions. We seek out the lost places of Americana and look to nestle into other well-established locales who truly care about preserving the charm of their town.”