Posted: December 26, 2013, 12:00 p.m. EDT
Meet the community-active Dave Ratner of Dave’s Soda and Pet City.
By Arden Moore
Dave Ratner fills his days by operating seven pet supply stores and overseeing production of cat and dog food brands bearing his name, but ask him at any time on any day and he will quickly declare that he is the "luckiest guy in the history of the world.”
Ratner might squeeze more productivity out of each waking minute than most, but you won’t find him complaining. In fact, his upbeat attitude, willingness to take calculated risks and determination to help community groups are what fuel him.
For his roles as community advocate for numerous pet and people charities, the owner of Dave’s Soda and Pet City stores (seven locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut) and creator of Dave’s Pet Food has been selected as this month’s choice in Pet Product News International’s Power in Partnerships series sponsored by Halo, Purely for Pets.
Charities Rally Around Dave
Finding people to applaud Ratner’s efforts was easy. The mere mention of his name unleashes plenty of praise from nonprofit groups.
Dave Ratner. Dave's Soda and Pet City
"Dave works with a lot of shelters and animal rescue groups in our area, and he is always coming up with new, creative ways to help us,” said Alanna Regan, manager of Feline Friends Inc., a cat center based in Feeding Hills, Mass., that rescues, rehabilitates and adopts homeless cats.
Since 2008, this cat group has enjoyed a permanent adoption facility inside Ratner’s store in Agawam, Mass., that is maintained daily by volunteers. During this time, 325 cats and kittens residing at Ratner’s store have been adopted.
Ratner hosted the group’s annual Catober Fest in his Agawam store in October, Regan added. The event raised $3,000 that day.
Leslie Harris, executive director of the Dakin Humane Society in Springfield, Mass., works with Ratner in a variety of ways.
"We may have different missions, but we are both looking for ways to benefit animals,” said Harris. "We hold dog training classes at Dave’s store in Hadley, and he doesn’t charge us rent. He helped us double the amount of food in our Pet Food Bank, and he is always sponsoring fundraising events from dog washes to golf tournaments to benefit the Dakin Humane Society. He is incredibly generous to so many animal shelters and rescue groups.”
Dave Listens To Customers
Ratner has never strayed from his mission: to offer quality pet products and pet food at reasonable prices.
"Having been in the retail business for many years, I make a lot of decisions based on feedback from my customers,” said Ratner. "I am happy to work with rescues and shelters who are huge influencers in our pet community. The greatest way to build a great reputation is for people to trust you. People entrust us with their most precious creatures in the world—their pets.”
He encourages customers to sign up for special Dave’s cards, which enable them to designate a favorite pet charity to receive 5 percent of all store sales, which in turn can be applied toward store purchases for needed pet food and supplies. And, he created the Dave’s Responsible Pet Owner’s Club, which awards customers $5 store coupons each month for a year for showing proof that their pets have been spayed or neutered. An additional $5 per month for a year is awarded to customers who adopt a pet from a local shelter.
But one of his favorite brainstorms is called Dave’s Student of the Month.
"I went to every school system in our stores’ service area, and we give out a student certificate each month to someone in every elementary and middle school classroom,” said Ratner. "I love seeing families come into our stores and watch the proud parents as their children receive a Siamese fighting fish and fishbowl. It’s a way to get children interested in aquatics at an early age and to encourage them to be kind to pets.”
Dave Rewards Independent Retailers
When Ratner launched dog and cat food brands bearing his name, he tapped into his experience as an independent store retailer shelving up-and-coming pet food brands to come up with a price point that works for customers and retailers now carrying his brand.
He puts 25 percent of all company profits from the sales of his pet food brand into a kitty that is doled out to retailers carrying his brand as a reward for their loyalty. Today, Dave’s Pet Food is sold in more than 2,000 independent pet stores throughout the United States.
Ratner revels in his role as a successful small businessperson who serves on the National Retail Federation board and has testified before the Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hill. He is also an in-demand seminar speaker at national pet industry association conferences and expos. Locally, he is a winner of the Reader Raves and Advocate Best of the Valley awards. And, in 2012, he was inducted into the Massachusetts Retail Association’s Hall of Fame.
"I am very passionate and feel so lucky to be in the industry that I am in,” said Ratner, who shares his home with a pair of German shepherd dogs named Ogden and Trudie. "The key to being successful is to make it win-win-win for the customer, for the shelter and for the retailer. I truly feel like the luckiest guy in the world.”
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