Virginia Is for Dog Lovers
Pet Product News’ 2018-2019 Marketing Retailer of the Year Award winner combined its nutritional expertise and love of animals to expand from one store to five.
At Dog Krazy, the journey to success began unassumingly with a bulldog, a loving pet owner and a singular aspiration. Simply put, Nancy Guinn wanted to spend as much time as possible with her beloved bulldog, Piglet.
Guinn’s ambition became reality in 2006. Leaving behind a busy career as a dental practice manager, the entrepreneur opened the doors to Dog Krazy in downtown Fredericksburg, Va.
“Dog Krazy was established because of my love for my ‘heart’ dog, Piglet,” she says. “I wanted to spend every moment with her.”
The fledging endeavor launched with a limited selection of foods and supplies in a 1,000-square-foot location.
“It was the tiniest space,” she says. “I was there five years.”
The original business statement, “If it’s not good enough for our family, it’s not good enough for your family” stands today; however, that avowal now complements a tribute to Piglet’s legacy.
“Our business cards and postcards say ‘Pet nutrition is our specialty,’ but I wanted one line that represents everything about Dog Krazy,” Guinn says. “So we’ve recently changed our motto to ‘It all started with a bulldog.’”
Not one to stand on formality, Guinn, the owner and president of the business, which now has five locations, refers to herself and her husband, Chris, who serves as Dog Krazy’s vice president, as “humans to the four-legged owners.”
Indeed, since Piglet’s passing in 2016, a diverse menagerie of “four-legged owners” have stepped in as spokes-critters and social media stars, including a pot-bellied pig named Jimmie Dean, Ozzie the cat, Max the parrot, and four dogs: Pork Won Ton, Sushi, Stirfry and Tala.
“I always include my animals in our social media videos,” she says. “I might talk about Ozzie, Jimmy Dean, Max or the dogs.”
Social media platforms help Guinn keep customers connected to the two-legged and four-legged proprietors of Dog Krazy. The ongoing creative and educational videos cover a range of topics, including the Guinn pets, the company’s stress-free grooming services, nutrition and ongoing or upcoming events.
Canine birthday celebrants also make their mark.
“We give free bandanas to birthday dogs and take their picture to post on social media,” Guinn says.
While grooming services were not included in the initial Dog Krazy business plan, a groomer rented space from Guinn, and upon relocation to a more spacious facility in downtown Fredericksburg, Guinn added grooming to the service mix.
“When that groomer relocated, I ended up hiring all the people who worked for her,” she says.
In 2015, the second store opened its doors in Spotsylvania, Va. At that point, Chris left his own accounting career to join the business on a full-time basis.
In 2017, the couple inadvertently opened two stores simultaneously.
“It was a complete accident,” Guinn says. “We’d hoped to lease a space next door to our veterinary oncologist’s office in Richmond, Va., where Piglet, and Chris’ dog, Nova, had been treated, but another business acquired the lease.”
Disappointed but undeterred, the couple procured an agreement in the nearby town of Stafford. A week later, they learned that the veterinary practice was purchasing the building, with Dog Krazy as its choice to occupy the original site.
“We’d just written a sizable check for the other building and didn’t have the funds, but we did some calculations and figured we would be able to cut costs by doing the construction ourselves,” Guinn says. “We decided to open two stores at once.”
Chris undertook construction duties, and, mere weeks apart, both stores began welcoming customers. The latest location in Leesburg, Va., opened this fall.
Each location boasts its own distinct flavor and specialty while retaining Dog Krazy branding and products.
“We carry the same products and offer grooming at each store; however, one will offer something that the others don’t,” Guinn says.
For example, the Richmond store, which is sited adjacent to the veterinary practice, often sees patients referred by the veterinary oncologist or internist.
“You have to be really strong to work in this store,” she says. “The veterinarians often send us patients in need of nutritional help. Associates are not only experts in nutrition, but must be prepared to cry a lot.”
A prayer wheel at the front of the store presents a loving, tender touch.
“It’s something I would have appreciated when Piglet was going through her treatments,” Guinn says.
Aside from full grooming, Richmond also offers Dog Krazy’s only self-serve dog wash facility.
With the opening of the Leesburg location, an in-store bakery, Lola’s Barkery, stands out from the competition.
“There are quite a few specialty dog stores in the area, so we wanted to be different,” Guinn says.
Guinn’s mother, Maria, a Leesburg resident with a life-long passion for baking, is realizing her own dream by creating canine delicacies, such as chicken and waffles, birthday cakes and other freshly baked indulgences.
“I wanted to put a bakery in for my mom and decided to do a dog bakery,” Guinn says. “I surprised her on her birthday.”
In a nod to her Filipino heritage—“Lola” means “grandmother” in Tagalog—the moniker “Lola’s Barkery” seemed a natural fit.
“Everyone calls her Lola,” Guinn says. “But Lola was also Piglet’s name when she came into my life.”
In Spotsylvania, Va., three Adopt Shop suites assist rescue groups in placing dogs and cats into forever homes. Each suite is dedicated to the memory of a rescued pet that has since passed. Dog Krazy employees see to the care and comfort of resident dogs and cats awaiting a new family.
“If a customer comes in asking if we sell puppies, we direct them to the suites and promote adoption,” she says. “A rescue can also bring a fostered pet to our store to meet with a potential adoptive pet parent.”
Guinn noted that the more difficult adoption cases are near and dear to her heart.
“I like to focus on the ones that have been in foster care for a while,” she says.
The Stafford store, sited on a busy commuter route, features grooming and a full-line of pet supplies and foods.
“This store is sited on a two-lane road, but approximately 150,000 vehicles drive by every day,” she says. “It’s literally a grab-and-go store, but we are planning an expansion of the busy grooming services.”
The downtown Fredericksburg store, with its upstairs Paw Spa, presents a warm, old-fashioned ambience with an eclectic flair.
“The decorations are different because of all the nooks and crannies,” she says. “It is my absolute favorite.”
As a certified clinical pet nutritionist, Guinn said she feels that guiding customers to an appropriate and healthful diet must be based on the individual pet. A wide variety of canned, dehydrated, freeze-dried, kibble and raw dog and cat foods are available to meet those needs. Budget constraints are also taken into consideration.
“I am all about the dog or cat that is in front of me—I want to do what’s best for the animal, but I am always aware of budgets,” Guinn says.
To further assist in determining the ideal nutritional course of action, Guinn has written and created a computer program offering staff members easy access to dietary information.
Pet owners shop with confidence, knowing that foods and supplies in the Dog Krazy mix have been carefully scrutinized by Guinn.
“If a product is in our stores, it’s something I’d bring home to my pets,” she says.
This assessment also includes manufacturer factory tours of the foods and treats being offered.
“It’s not just the ingredients,” she says. “I want to know how the food and treats are made, where products are sourced.”
In addition, Guinn claims the largest natural chew bars in the state, with more than 200 selections.
“We carry everything from bully sticks to duck heads,” she says. “It’s crazy how many duck heads we sell.”
Bakery cases in each store reveal a mouthwatering display of goodies to tempt the canine crowd.
Every location offers a broad assortment of natural, holistic supplements stocked at the APAWthecary.
And for customers wishing to shop from home, the Dog Krazy website features an online store, with free delivery for orders more than $99.
Dog People Rule
When Dog Krazy is considering a new hire, dog lovers are sought, but successful candidates are also perfectionists in whatever they do and happy to get down on the floor with visiting pets.
“We want people that make a customer feel like their dog is the only dog in the store,” she says. “I hire dog people, not people-people, because the bond occurs with the customer through their relationships with the dogs.”
In order to promote that one-on-one connection, stores are always well staffed.
Tutelage is ongoing, with associates undergoing testing that helps them recognize foods and ingredients that will benefit specific health conditions. Spot-check testing identifies areas that might require more training.
Consumer education is central, and, each month, specific matters are addressed companywide—for instance, dental or pancreatitis concerns.
“The employees get together as a team and learn as they study products, create displays that address the monthly issue and share with the other locations,” Guinn says. “The store with the best display receives a group activity as a reward.”
Dogs in need of pampering enjoy a little spa time by taking advantage of the stress-free grooming services offered at each store.
“We don’t book multiple dogs at the same time unless we have more than one groomer,” Guinn says. “We start a dog and finish it all at once—it doesn’t go into a kennel. If a dog’s appointment is at 9, he or she will be done by 11.”
Groomers also undergo the same training as sales staff about pet nutrition.
“We want our groomers to know as much about food as our sales staff because they see the coats, or the ears,” she says. “Our customers listen to the advice of our groomers.”
Pets in need are never far from Guinn’s heart. Food and supply drives to benefit local rescues take place on an ongoing, as-needed basis.
“They know they can come to me,” Guinn says. “All they have to do is call or stop by.”
Helping victims after a natural disaster is also fundamental to Dog Krazy’s philosophy.
“After Hurricane Harvey in Texas, we teamed up with another group and matched all donations, pound for pound, toy for toy, chew for chew,” she says. “That was a big one.”
It’s A Retail Life
What is Dog Krazy best known for?
Nancy Guinn: Our dogs are our best friends, and we are known for treating each dog as if it were our own.
What is the biggest challenge for pet retailers today?
Guinn: Time management. I have a long to-do list, so getting everything done in a timely manner is a challenge.
For the pet industry overall?
Guinn: With so many new products available, it’s difficult to determine the best selection. For instance, right now there are so many cannabidiol (CBD) products out there, it is overwhelming.
Are you watching any interesting trends right now?
Guinn: CBD. That’s what I’m paying the most attention to. I carry two brands that I really love, but people come in here all the time asking about other products. I’m always trying to keep up with what’s going on.
What do you see for the future of Dog Krazy?
Guinn: Opening two more stores in the next year. I want to get to 10 and then just take a break and let the business run as is. I’d like to eventually leave Dog Krazy to my nieces and nephews and let them take care of everything. Chris and I will be in the Bahamas swimming with the pigs, just like we do every year on the anniversary of Piglet’s death.
A Place to Call Home
When Monique Garza and her cherished bulldog, Bella, discovered Dog Krazy, the connection was immediate.
“I’d just moved to the area and was looking for a grooming salon for Bella,” Garza says. “I prefer to shop locally and had read some great reviews of Dog Krazy.”
So, Garza and Bella headed to downtown Fredericksburg to see for themselves.
“We walked into Dog Krazy and there was Piglet, so Nancy and I had our bulldogs in common from the start,” she says.
From that point on, downtown outings always included an expedition to Dog Krazy, with Bella leading the way.
“I’ve been shopping there for five years now,” she added.
It’s the caring nature of Dog Krazy owner Nancy Guinn and her staff that keeps Garza coming back.
“They were so good to Bella—everybody loved her,” she says. “Their passion radiates. They love pets and believe in the products they sell. Those are the biggest things for me.”
When Bella became ill, Guinn and staff members helped with nutritional counseling but, more important, supported Garza through the grieving process when Bella passed.
Beyond compassionate customer service, the knowledge displayed by the Dog Krazy team is another plus. Garza appreciates that, should a staff member not have an answer, they are willing to do some homework to find one.
“I have always been really adamant about doing my research,” she says. “I have learned from them. They’ve helped me along the way, and I think they have learned from me.”
Today, Garza continues to shop Dog Krazy for her cat, Luna, and new family member, Frankie, or Princess Winks A Lot, a nickname bestowed on the bulldog by Guinn.
“Bella was always treated like royalty, and now, so is Frankie,” Garza says. “That’s my store, and Frankie loves going there, too.”
Dog Krazy at a Glance
Locations: 307 William Street, Fredericksburg, VA; 10681 Spotsylvania Ave.,
Fredericksburg, VA; 1603 Village Market Blvd., #108, Leesburg, VA; 315 Garrisonville Rd., Stafford, VA; and 3310 West Cary St., Richmond, VA
Officers: Nancy Guinn, owner and president, and Chris Guinn, vice president
Employees: 40 full time, 5 part time
Years in business: 12
Average square feet: 2,500
Products and services: Boutique, cat and dog foods and supplies, Adopt Shop, stress-free grooming, APAWthecary, delivery, self-serve dog wash, nutritional consultations