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TailsSpin Is Pet Product News' Retailer of the Year 2015-2016

TailsSpin Pet Food & Accessories tirelessly champions its community and collaborates with local businesses, charities, schools and, most of all, pets, to create heartfelt connections.


Author, activist and lecturer Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Georgia businessmen Jusak Yang Bernhard and Jeffrey Allen Manley, must have admired Keller greatly; her philosophy has become interwoven into the fabric of their business.

“At the end of the day, we can’t exist by ourselves,” said Bernhard.

“We don’t always know where these associations will lead, but so often, doors suddenly open,” said Manley.

With that, we offer many congratulations to Georgia’s TailsSpin Pet Food & Accessories, the pet retailer known as “The Store With the Heart,” on winning Pet Product News International’s Retailer of the Year Award for 2015-2016.

Coast to Coast
At one time, both men enjoyed thriving careers in the Southern California entertainment industry.

However, the door to a new life swung open with the adoption of Kai, a Labrador-Dalmatian mix suffering from food sensitivities and allergies. A holistic veterinarian recommended a hypoallergenic food.

The diet not only alleviated Kai’s symptoms, but also ignited a passion for the study of canine nutrition and sparked a search for a new home on the East Coast.

“We wanted to live somewhere that would further help Kai’s allergies,” said Bernhard. “And we have family ties in Georgia.”

In 2006, the family packed up and moved to the historic port city of Savannah, Ga.

After settling, Kai would once more guide her owners’ lives in a new direction. Unable to locate the food that Kai was flourishing on, they decided to open their own pet supply store.

“Kai took the lead in everything we’ve done—all our decisions have been because of her,” said Bernhard.

In 2007, the first TailsSpin opened in a 600-square-foot shop near Savannah’s historic Forsyth Park and was relocated to its current 2,600-square-foot space in midtown Savannah in 2009. In 2011, the 3,500-square-foot Pooler store opened, and the 3,700-square-foot Macon store opened in November 2012.

Kai died in April, but dogs Riley and Cosmo, adopted in Savannah, carry on in her stead. Kai’s spirit and legacy persevere with the recent opening of a fourth TailsSpin location in Whitemarsh.

“I believe Kai is saying, ‘You’d better take care of the business now that I’m not around,’” said Manley.

Offerings From the Heart
TailsSpin’s inventory features hypoallergenic dry, canned, raw and freeze-dried foods as well as treats, health and wellness supplies, toys, collars, leashes, supplements and shampoos. Self-serve dog washes are at every location; the midtown Savannah and Whitemarsh stores each feature a training room, a veterinary office and grooming facilities. Professionals operate as independent contractors, renting space to support their practices.

...the key attribute sought in a TailsSpin employee is a commitment to community and devotion to supporting people and their pets—a giving heart.

Visiting pets savor a warm welcome at TailsSpin—tasty greetings emerge from treat bags worn by every staff member. In addition, the bags also contain a notepad, a pencil and a tape measure to assist customers in sizing collars and other items.

Ample staffing allows for the one-on-one interaction on which TailsSpin prides itself. Training is extensive, ongoing and stresses the importance of customer relations. PetStorePro and myriad workshops presented by pet food manufacturers, trainers, veterinarians and groomers result in well-educated, confident emissaries.

However, the key attribute sought in a TailsSpin employee is a commitment to community and devotion to supporting people and their pets—a giving heart, said Bernhard.

“Everything else can be taught,” he said.

Together We Do Much
Community relations are cherished at TailsSpin. A central component to that mission is advocating pet adoption.

“Kai cemented our firm belief in adoption,” said Manley.

Adoption days occur on a regular basis in all stores and money raised during dog-washing fundraisers goes toward rescue and adoption agency operating expenses.

Each new family receives a TailsSpin Adoption Kit, which includes a pet ID tag, a complimentary dog wash, a discount coupon and a bag of food.

“They have a choice of food, and all the manufacturers are in cahoots with us,” said Bernhard.

TailsSpin partners with local radio and television stations for “Rescue Me” segments on the local CBS television affiliate, as well as “Pet Patrol,” featured on the only locally owned Savannah radio station.

‚ÄčTailsSpin also sponsors Bark in the Park at the Savannah baseball stadium several times per year. Local rescues and adoption agencies attend, and pet owners enjoy the outing with four-legged family members.

“We usually feature a rescue group, and they bring a few dogs out onto the field during the first and second inning,” said Manley. “We’ve been doing this for about four years.”

TailsSpin also was selected for Halo, Purely for Pets’ Holiday Kibble Drop.

“Every year, Halo selects 12 locations, with the food to be donated to a rescue group,” said Bernhard. “We wanted to include all the agencies we work with.”

A local elementary school served as the food distribution point during a student body spirit day.

“We wanted to help students understand the responsibility of pet ownership,” said Bernhard.

In spring, TailsSpin and the PTA of the same elementary school partner to present the TailsSpin Pet Care and Adoption Fair in conjunction with the school’s annual carnival, where veterinarians, pet photographers, pet food manufacturers, trainers and rescue agencies mix with carnival games, bake sales, a dunk tank and bounce houses. Visitors can enjoy a home-baked treat, get their pets vaccinated and commemorate the good time with a photo. All proceeds from the event are donated to area rescues and the school.

The annual Woof-Woof 5K Walk/Run Over Pet Cancer finds TailsSpin and the elementary school teaming with a local veterinary oncologist and Savannah retailer Fleet Feet to raise funding for the Blue Buffalo Foundation for Cancer Research, the local Hope Chest Charitable Foundation and area rescue agencies.

At the 2014 event, 500 runners and their dogs jogged or walked for the cause.

“We have raised $45,000 each year,” said Bernhard. “What is wonderful is all of our manufacturers support the event.”

TailsSpin’s recent involvement with a local high school’s veterinary science program has led to internship and mentoring programs.

To help promote a line of dog treats recently developed by the students, TailsSpin is providing marketing and mentoring assistance, and Natural Balance Pet Foods Inc. recently donated $4,000 toward business and treat development.

The high school also is the site of the annual TailsSpin-sponsored Skyhoundz Canine Disc Championship Qualifier Throwing competition, which raises funds for Pets for Vets and the rescue agencies placing the dogs.

Building bridges to the community will continue to be TailsSpin’s focus, but new locations, or even franchising, are possibilities.

“We’re changing our tagline to ‘Born in Savannah,’” said Bernhard. “It’s an almost magical place. We believe we didn’t choose Savannah—Savannah chose us.”  

This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of Pet Product News.

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