Pet Product News’ 2017-2018 Rescue Partner and Community Involvement Retailer of the Year winner has embraced the internet while still providing top-notch services and support to its community.
It’s often been said that it’s never too late to start anew.
Claudia Loomis and her husband, Roy, owners of Cherrybrook Pet Supplies, embraced this notion years ago when they decided to leave established careers to pursue new goals within the pet industry.
At one time, Roy traveled the world as a partner in a business consulting firm, while Claudia, taking a break from her career as an insurance broker, kept the home fires burning, raising their two sons, Harrison and Jonathan.
As a life-long pet lover and owner, Claudia also enjoyed her role as neighborhood advisor for all things four-legged and furry. However, Roy, dissatisfied with constant globe-trotting, felt he was missing out on precious family time. Too young to retire, he and Claudia began exploring business possibilities that could be operated closer to home, as a family venture.
Upon hearing that venerable catalog and dog show vendor Cherrybrook Pet Supplies was available, the couple began to investigate the opportunity.
Innovator and entrepreneur Wayne Ferguson launched Cherrybrook in 1969, traveling to dog shows to hawk his grooming and show supply wares, initially from the back of a station wagon.
As Cherrybrook’s renown grew, Ferguson branched out to the mail-order catalog business. When the internet arrived on the scene, the website cherrybook.com drew an even broader customer base as a leading international supplier of premium dog show and grooming products.
“Roy and I knew of Cherrybrook as a constant presence at dogs shows, so we spoke with some of our dog fancy friends and learned of its strong reputation within that community and among breeders,” Claudia Loomis says.
In 2005, the couple took the leap, with the intention of expanding the Cherrybrook experience to embrace pet owners.
“When we purchased Cherrybrook, we naturally looked at what made the business unique,” she says. “At the time, however, industry growth was less within the dog show world, and more focused on a rise in designer dogs and pet rescue. We wanted to capture the pet parent market.”
The first order of business was to revamp and update the Cherrybrook brand, starting with the catalog and website. As newcomers to the pet retail domain, the Loomises took their time with this project, studying the ins and outs of their newly acquired enterprise—not to say the process was easy.
“Roy likes to say we were ‘drinking from a fire hose’ those first few years,” Loomis says.
By 2009, with business thriving, the couple felt Cherrybrook was ready to launch a brick-and-mortar venture. Housed in the original Broadway, N.J., warehousing facility, the fledgling endeavor featured holistic foods and a full line of pet supplies, eventually relocating to nearby Washington, N.J. A second store in Bedminster, N.J., soon followed, and the Garwood, N.J., location started welcoming customers in 2010. During that time, Cherrybrook’s corporate offices and warehousing facilities were moved to a site in Phillipsburg, N.J.
Cherrybrook’s online presence has flourished as well. It consists primarily of show dog and grooming supplies, and these products are shipped around the globe.
“There are breeders and dog fancy show people all over the world, and they can’t always get product they need locally to make their dogs look spectacular,” Loomis says.
The company’s deep roots within the East Coast dog show community have not been cast aside, and while the focus has shifted, Cherrybrook’s booth is still a presence at these events.
“We plan to attend 39 dog shows plus two major grooming shows in 2018,” Loomis says. “We are the only general vendor of pet supplies at the Westminster Kennel Club show.”
While retail business, internet sales and dog show travel keep life busy, community involvement is the foundation of Cherrybrook’s reputation with local pet owners and beyond.
“The major portion of our outreach is to develop relationships within our communities,” Loomis says. “We are always looking for new opportunities and causes that will assist rescue organizations and help animals.”
This collaboration also includes far-reaching concerns, such as participation in The Nature Conservancy’s Save the Elephants fundraising campaign, which supported the bloodhounds used to track African poachers. Cherrybrook collected donations companywide, and budding artists exhibited their talents by participating in a coloring contest.
“There were prizes for the kids, and for every completed coloring book page, Cherrybrook donated one dollar to The Nature Conservancy,” Loomis says.
Closer to home, Cherrybrook partnered once more with The Nature Conservancy to provide funding and raise awareness of the plight of New Jersey’s endangered bobcats. Bobcat Alley will provide a critical habitat and protection for these cats.
“Our store associates wore bobcat ears and pins that read, ‘Ask me about the bobcats,’” Loomis says. “We look forward to more opportunities with The Nature Conservancy.”
Cherrybrook often teams up with FlyPups to assist displaced pets housed in high-kill shelters in their quest for loving forever homes. FlyPups’ founder, Matthew Kiener, pilots his private airplane, primarily to southern states with a higher percentage of high-kill shelters, ferrying dogs to local facilities where adoption is more likely.
As the FlyPups plane frequently travels empty to these rescue destinations, Cherrybrook gathers supplies through in-store donations. After Cherrybrook teamed up with pet food manufacturer The Honest Kitchen for the Buy a Cup, Give a Cup initiative, the food company’s human-grade dehydrated meals filled the southbound plane.
“For every cup purchased by a customer, another would be given to FlyPups to go to a shelter,” Loomis says. “Bags of kibble weigh more, and a 10-pound box of these cups equals a 30-pound bag of kibble, so it’s less weight in the plane.”
During the busy holiday season, The Giving Tree fundraiser features trees decorated with “tabs” noting the wants and needs of various local rescue organizations. Customers are able to shop for these essentials; however, items that are not available at Cherrybrook—for instance, towels—are brought in and placed in awaiting donation bins as well.
“Some of the tabs are FlyPups themed and airplane shaped,” Loomis says. “So many of the shelters served in the south run on a razor-thin budget and are in need of leads or collars.”
Adoption days are held on a regular basis at each store. A calendar on the Cherrybrook website keeps customers and potential adopters apprised of the goings on.
“We also participate in and promote various rescue and shelter fundraisers and raise awareness via our marketing emails and on our Facebook page,” Loomis says.
In the event of disaster, Cherrybrook stands at the ready as a County Animal Response Team, or CART, member.
“We are a collection point for supplies and have agreed to supply particular products at a reduced cost,” Loomis says.
Where Education Is a Treat
Visiting pets are always welcomed and greeted with a treat at Cherrybrook.
“People and their pets gather at our stores, and that’s really fun,” Loomis says.
With knowledge being a central component to the Cherrybrook ethos, customer education is provided through myriad outlets, including seminars and workshops.
For instance, pets in need of a little healing can de-stress under the hands of a reiki practitioner, while pet owners wishing to better understand their furry charge’s feelings often sign up for a session with an animal communicator. When a pedicure is called for, a nail trimming clinic, staffed by a local groomer, is available on a monthly basis.
“Our newest offering is Paint Your Pet, a painting class with local artist Judy Whitsell, well-known for her dog portraits,” Loomis says.
Show dog handlers meet weekly for pointers and instruction at the corporate office and warehousing facility in Phillipsburg. Known as the “events center” because of the additional space, local dog shows also take place at this location.
The events center also hosts “nose work” trials, as well as scent-training workshops with a local group.
As a convenience for those unable to attend in-store events, webinars have been added to the roster of educational opportunities. These online gatherings are advertised in emails, on Facebook and in the stores.
“We recently hosted a webinar with Rob Downey of Annamaet Petfoods,” Loomis says. “Notification for the event went out to our entire list of 50,000 customers and was posted on our Facebook page as well.”
Safety and quality stand first and foremost as considerations to the Cherrybrook product mix. Foods are corn, wheat and soy free, with no animal byproducts, artificial colors or preservatives.
“We have a product management team and a deliberate method when evaluating product,” Loomis says.
As part of that process, Cherrybrook sends a four-page pet food questionnaire to manufacturers of foods being considered.
“We want to get down to the nitty gritty of the ingredient panel,” she says. “This system determines how comfortable we feel with the manufacturing process, and whether we are going to bring a food in.”
Foods and supplies are primarily sourced from the U.S. and Canada.
Cherrybrook’s knowledgeable staff assists customers in making nutritional decisions for their pets.
“We invest a lot of time promoting what we like to call ‘consultative selling’ and also in product education,” Loomis says.
These well-versed, pet-passionate employees, in turn, are able to develop professional relationships with Cherrybrook customers, which engenders confidence and leads to lasting friendships.
“Most of our employees are adults working full time, many with professional pet experience,” she says. “We are all pet lovers, and we bring that passion to work every day.”
Cherrybrook Pet Supplies At A Glance
Locations: 165 Howard Street Phillipsburg, NJ; 412 US 206 North Bedminster, NJ; 704 North Avenue Garwood, NJ; 405 E. Washington Ave. (Route 57) Washington, NJ
Owners: Claudia and Roy Loomis
Number of employees: 37 full time, 3 part time
Years in business: 49; founded in 1969; under current ownership for 13 years
Average Square feet: 4,000
Products and services: A full line of products for dogs and cats, including holistic pet foods and treats, grooming supplies, apparel, gift items, toys, bedding and accessories. Adoption days, training workshops and events, animal communicator and reiki healer visits, nail clipping clinics, educational webinars
Integrity, Service and Shared Values
Carol Montgomery of Bedminster, N.J., has been breeding and showing Samoyeds for the past 46 years. She is also a long-time Cherrybrook Pet Supplies customer.
“My husband and I moved to Bedminster 30 years ago and began shopping when Cherrybrook was owned by Roy Ferguson,” she says.
In those early days, Montgomery shopped for show and grooming supplies while browsing the Cherrybrook catalog. Today, the internet allows her to make these purchases with ease.
“I also shopped at the dog show booth, and I still do,” Montgomery says.
When the Bedminster location opened for business in 2009, Montgomery was thrilled. Located within eight minutes of her home, the store is sited in a shopping mall alongside her favorite grocery store and pharmacy.
“In one stop, I can shop for myself, fill my prescriptions and buy food for my dogs,” Montgomery says.
Cherrybrook’s focus shift from strictly show and grooming inventory to holistic foods and pet supplies is another plus, according to Montgomery.
“The change has been great; I see pet people shopping, and they love their dogs as much as I do mine,” she says. “After all, my dogs are my pets first—they just happen to be show dogs.”
However, it is Cherrybrook’s service model and well-educated staff members that keep Montgomery coming back.
“Service is everything,” she says. “It’s how to differentiate from the competition. They hire the right people—knowledgeable, well-trained folks—and that’s so important.”
Further, as a breeder, Montgomery refers customers purchasing her puppies to Cherrybrook, knowing that well-researched, high-quality foods and products at an array of price points are in the mix.
“I am confident when making those recommendations,” she says. “I know that if a product doesn’t work for some reason, Cherrybrook will take it back without question. They understand the value of keeping their customers happy.”
Consumer education is another facet Montgomery appreciates.
“Experts often come to the store to discuss foods and nutrition with customers,” she says. “Staff members also understand nutrition, which is so helpful to pet parents.”
Cherrybrook’s commitment to community and animal welfare efforts is another welcomed attribute. As a customer, Montgomery cited her own pride in supporting these endeavors.
However, gratification is not limited to customers.
“Employees understand that their company stands for something beyond making a profit—they see and feel the importance of giving back,” she says.
“It all goes back to integrity and service,” Montgomery adds. “That’s what keeps me coming back.”
It’s a Retail Life
What is Cherrybrook Pet Supplies best known for?
Claudia Loomis: Our reputation as a world-class provider of show dog needs, grooming supplies and holistic nutrition. We are well known within these circles.
What is the greatest challenge for independent pet retailers today?
Loomis: Staying relevant, and providing a good mix of innovative products and knowledge. Knowledge is something that customers don’t receive when shopping online. As independent retailers, we have to be on top of our game, to be educators and not just salespeople.
The greatest challenge for the pet industry overall?
Loomis: Maintaining pet-focused companies. We have seen a lot of acquisitions lately, especially in the pet food sector. We need to keep dedication and passion in the pet industry by not commoditizing it. It’s a growing industry, not just another shiny object.
Any interesting trends right now?
Loomis: We are carefully watching what appears to be happening in the raw food world. It seems as if this industry is being hit hard by the FDA with the number of recalls over the past couple of years. Customers are gleaning a little bit of information from the internet, or from a friend, or a friend of a friend, and are coming into our stores with questions. Discernment is important—sometimes people take what they read or hear as gospel.
What do you see for the future of Cherrybrook Pet Supplies?
Loomis: We are in the process of making some strategic acquisitions. Previously, we’ve always had organic growth.