A Natural Endeavor
Odyssey Pets stays true to an innovative vision while recognizing trends and implementing change.
The sprawling metroplex that is Dallas is home to Odyssey Pets, a retail store whose journey has been one of adaptation, transformation and endeavoring to meet the ever-evolving needs of the region’s sophisticated pet lovers.
“We ... shift with the industry; that’s one of our strong points,” said Mike Doan, co-owner with his wife, Sherry Redwine, and her parents, Bill and JoAnn Redwine. “We also bring a great deal of creativity and innovation to what we do.”
Doan and Sherry met while employed at a large aquarium service company in the Dallas area, and in 2006, they merged their expertise with that of canine enthusiasts Bill and JoAnn to open Odyssey Pets, Pet Product News International’s 2015-2016 Retailer of the Year for Outstanding Retail Development.
Odyssey Pets initially offered pet foods and supplies, grooming, and fish and aquarium supplies, but a fall 2014 relocation to a larger, 9,000-square-foot facility allowed for the design of the ideal retail configuration and provided enough space to expand services to include day care and boarding.
“We are heavily invested in the service side of dogs—grooming, boarding, day care and animal rescue,” Doan said.
In addition, saltwater and freshwater fish and a full line of aquatic supplies are in the product mix.
Staying contemporary and apprised of the latest trends includes researching retail merchandising and design developments, and observing shifts within the fashion industry.
“Our inspirations come from seeing what’s going on around the country,” Sherry said.
As a result, her artistic, eye-catching window displays often stop passersby in their tracks, enticing a step inside.
“I try to stay as professional and imaginative as possible,” Sherry said. “We’ve seen people taking selfies with our displays.”
Welcome to Odyssey Pets
Upon entering, Odyssey Pets feels warm and welcoming. The store’s circular, “racetrack” flow encourages shoppers to stroll through every department. The centrally located register allows for high visibility and the accessibility to greet customers and provide assistance with ease.
“Our customer service is a major aspect to our success,” Sherry said.
Adjacent to the register area, small dogs frolic in their own dog day care enclosure, which doubles as an entertainment center for visitors.
“People sometimes come in on their lunch break to de-stress by watching the little guys playing,” Doan said.
Likewise, the 2,500-square-foot aquatics department offers a respite for those seeking a little serenity. The showroom features wall installations exhibiting freshwater and saltwater fish, and an array of display tanks occupying the surrounding sales floor. Custom design services are offered.
“We break it down for our customers on every level and do a lot of problem solving in the store,” Doan said. “We have a really good staff of fish people, and they serve as mentors to our customers.”
Enthusiasts desiring guidance with their in-home or business aquariums often take advantage of Odyssey Pets’ installation and maintenance services.
“We have two service trucks, with one full-time technician and myself,” Doan said.
Education is paramount at Odyssey Pets, and the store offers only natural, holistic foods with no corn, wheat, gluten or ingredients from China.
“We prefer foods be made in their own manufacturing plant if possible—we want to know where it’s made, where the ingredients are coming from,” Sherry said. “People come to us because they trust us and know we do the research.”
Sampling is integral to the selection process.
“If I don’t get samples into a customer’s hands, that food will not be considered,” she said.
In addition, the grooming salon is key to providing counsel.
“If a dog coming in for a grooming has tear stains, for instance, we can nicely suggest a food that might rid that dog of those stains,” she said.
Pets are encouraged to drop in with their owners, who might learn proper sizing techniques for collars and harnesses or take part in a nutritional consultation. Informative articles regarding the proper care and feeding of pets are presented in The Barker, a monthly newsletter.
Committed to advocating Lone Star commerce, the store features an exclusive display of made in Texas foods and products.
“It’s about making a small footprint and being as green as possible,” Doan said. “Dallas is a cultured city. Our customers shop local and appreciate this effort.”
A Doggie Day at the Spa
Grooming services have been in the mix since Odyssey Pets opened; however, the salon has expanded and upgraded with the new location.
“We’ve installed a walk-in shower for large dogs and recently brought in a bathing system that mixes shampoo more efficiently,” Sherry said.
A separate, cage-free drying room isolates loose hair from the main grooming area and the rest of the store. To ensure a tranquil ambience for pets, the grooming room is not visible to store customers.
“It keeps everyone happy and calm, and that’s really important,” Doan said.
In order to foster familiarity, groomer and client meet prior to each session to discuss any concerns. During this time, groomers also provide nutritional education or tips on maintaining a pet’s coat in between appointments.
Romp and Roll
In addition to the small dog day care area at the register, larger dogs romp in the main playroom that adjoins the boarding area.
The area also houses the boarding kennels. Dog staying overnight in the 15-foot-square, 5-by-5-foot or 5-by-10-foot kennels also stretch their legs and socialize in the day care space. Dogs are never left unattended while involved in play and are hand-walked by well-trained staffers several times per day in a grassy area outside of the boarding facility.
“We do not encourage them to potty in the play area,” Sherry said.
With the growing popularity of these services, an upcoming expansion will double the size of the boarding/day care facility. The increased capacity will provide room for training classes, workshops and special events.
“We envision a very public-friendly room,” Doan said.
No Place Like Home
Finding homes for pets in need is a significant focus at Odyssey Pets, and adoption days take place on a regular basis.
“We also work with manufacturers to provide pet food to our local adoption groups,” Sherry said.
An adoptable cat or kitten is always on site, in cooperation with a local feline rescue.
Additionally, diminutive canines in search of a forever family foster adoption awareness while cavorting in the small dog day care facility near the register. Party Animal Rescue, recently instituted by an Odyssey Pets staff member, presents the eager pups.
“They wear little shirts that say ‘Adopt Me,’” Sherry said. “We’re really excited about this group.”
There’s plenty of buzz surrounding the annual Woof-O-Ween Halloween party, Odyssey Pets’ social gathering of the year.
“It’s a great event that keeps growing,” Doan said. “We had more than 200 people in 2014.”
The soiree centers on a theme, and revelers enter the costume contest and pose for photos in front of a fitting backdrop. Raffle prize proceeds and food drive donations benefit local shelters. At the end of the evening, guests take a festive departure with Odyssey Pets goody bags in hand, along with a variety of samples provided by the manufacturers in attendance.
“We start planning the next Woof-O-Ween immediately after the last one,” Sherry said. “For 2016, and our 10th anniversary, our theme is going to be a Monster Ball.”
It’s the People
The couple looks for a passionate animal lover in an employee, along with a willingness to learn and the ability to engage customers with ease.
“We want a natural employee, someone outgoing enough to say hello to a stranger,” Doan said. “Whether a fish person or a cat person, whatever their thing is, that enthusiasm is important on a résumé, more than education or work history.”
Training includes shadowing senior staff members, nutritional seminars delivered by Sherry, manufacturer presentations and general information. Staffers also participate in feeding programs offered by manufacturers.
“Food for their dogs is a perk we can offer, along with free boarding for their pets,” Doan said.
The Odyssey Continues
For the future, Odyssey Pets will focus on the boarding facility expansion as well as the implementation of dog training classes, grooming seminars and nutritional workshops in the larger space.
“It will allow us to pursue a lot of community activities,” Doan said.
“We want to spread the word about good pet health and pet care,” Sherry added.
This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Pet Product News.