Leading the Way
The Big Bad Woof’s commitment to quality pet nutrition, local businesses, and social and environmental issues sets it apart from the competition.
The big, bad wolf has appeared in cautionary tales throughout historic literature, from “Aesop’s Fables” to “Grimm’s Fairy Tales.” The intimidating predator huffed, puffed and menaced a range of characters, including diminutive pigs and a little girl clad in red. However, in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, a new member of the Canidae family has emerged, this one is a gentler, eco-friendly proponent of organics, nutrition and local sourcing.
Pennye Jones-Napier and Julie Paez, co-owners of The Big Bad Woof, opened the doors to their endeavor in Washington, D.C., in 2005. At the time, two wolf hybrids, Artemis and Bodie, were a part of their family. Artemis suffered from diabetes, and as a result of research into nutritional solutions for the disease, the pair decided to open a store that would offer foods based on the results of their findings.
In the meantime, Artemis and Bodie started a family of their own, and the new store was christened The Big Bad Woof, in honor of the pack.
At the time, the word “green” was barely a blip on the pet industry radar, the massive recalls had not yet occurred, and the prospect of running a business based entirely on green, sustainable, local, USA-made products was a rarity. The Big Bad Woof would cater to this market.
“We were told from the get-go that we could not run a business in this way,” Paez said. “This was before people were looking at sustainable practices or where their food was coming from.”
Due to this stance, The Big Bad Woof experienced little effects from the 2007 recalls.
“At that point, we knew we were on the right track,” Paez said.
Growing the Right Way
Recently, the original Takoma-neighborhood store in Washington, D.C., relocated to a more spacious, 3,900-square-foot site. The move placed that location on par with the 2,150-square-foot, higher-end Hyattsville, Md., store, which opened in August 2011. The original Takoma store, with its painted cement floors and variety of display materials, was in need of an update.
“I like to describe our first location as a very comfortable old pair of jeans that you really should have thrown away a long time ago,” Jones-Napier said. “The new store combines the finished, polished look of our higher-end Hyattsville location with an industrial feel.”
At the Hyattsville store, fixtures are in reclaimed wood, with recycled flat-wall, porcelain tile and recessed LED lighting. The new Takoma store also features natural flooring and, to help stabilize temperatures, two ceiling fans distribute air throughout the high-ceiling space. A red color scheme with black accents creates a welcoming ambience.
Keeping It Local
Jones-Napier and Paez are devoted to social and environmental issues that set The Big Bad Woof apart.
That attitude is reflected in the treats and foods carried, with local sources receiving first nod.
“We bring in local product versus buying from one of the distributors based on the fact that the product doesn’t have to travel as far, and that we are pouring money back into the local economy,” Jones-Napier said. “We look for products available within a 200-mile radius.”
Other factors they might consider when selecting products include the product’s packaging and use of reclaimed materials, whether a manufacturer is hiring disabled employees or is a minority- or woman-owned business, or supporting social or environmental causes.
“We work with like-minded companies—those doing their best to take care of the planet,” Paez said.
Takoma is home to one of the oldest farmers’ markets in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, with several local producers selling meat products. After approaching those known to be green and organic in their practices, Jones-Napier and Paez are now purchasing body parts that might have previously been trashed or composted. Items such as chicken feet, bones and organ meats are now shrink wrapped, frozen and part of the The Big Bad Woof product mix.
“We have a huge following for these items and have provided an additional income stream to these farmers,” Paez said.
With a focus on raw foods, the new Takoma Park store features 13 freezers, with four freezers in a back room to accommodate back stock. The Hyattsville store not only offers eight flat-front freezers, but also an 8-by-10 walk-in freezer.
“Raw is the healthiest way to feed, the least processed of all forms of foods, so all of the nutrients are completely bioavailable,” Paez said.
Also in the product mix are corn-, wheat- and soy-free, freeze-dried, dehydrated, kibble and canned foods for dogs and cats, and many baked treats. A bakery case displays mouthwatering, local goodies. Small mammal foods, as well as bird and organic chicken feed, are among the offerings too.
“Takoma Park is full of backyard chicken enthusiasts, and we are supplied by a great farm for our organic chicken feed,” Paez said. “We are also preparing to bring in horse feed.”
As many area customers work 60-plus-hour weeks, time is precious. For this reason, a delivery service has been implemented. Shoppers order online, and product is delivered, including frozen raw diets, to their door. Blind or disabled customers also enjoy having their pet supplies delivered and carried inside.
“We provide better service than the online suppliers because our drivers get to know our customers, carry the order inside and help with the unloading,” Jones-Napier said.
Cardboard boxes used for manufacturer shipments are repurposed for use in customer deliveries, and are often reused multiple times by shoppers. The delivery service also presents the opportunity to create an expansion, or recapturing, of sales.
“If a customer is buying cat food and not purchasing litter, we will ask what type of litter they use,” Jones-Napier said. “It might turn out that they are having litter shipped in from a big-box retailer, and we let them know that we can deliver the same product.”
The move to the new Takoma location has created room for additional inventory, and a dedicated shipping and delivery office furthers the expansion of this service.
“Delivery will become important moving forward,” Jones-Napier said. “We see a tremendous amount of growth.”
A Strong Sense of Community
Adoption days take place on a regular basis and involve several rescue and shelter organizations. Newly adopted pets and their owners get a start on home life with $50 in free supplies and 10 percent off any additional purchases.
“We partner with the Washington Humane Society and Washington Animal Rescue League in their food bank program for low-income residents and also broker deals to get product that is short dated into local food pantries,” Paez said.
Raising environmental awareness is the goal of Taking Action Days, during which Paez and Jones-Napier hold educational clinics.
“Our clinics discuss issues like environmental stewardship, local food or the green living experience,” Jones-Napier said.
For example, these events have included presentations by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to discuss cleanup of the bay, or the Humane Society, raising awareness of the plight of animals in factory farming.
“A web conference, broadcast live with John Goodwin of the Humane Society, discussed puppy mills,” Jones-Napier said.
“We now have the technology to expand the audience,” Paez added. “We aren’t just a pet supply store; we’re a resource center where people not only learn how to care for the pets, but discover all sorts of other ideas to become involved in and take action.”
This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of Pet Product News.