Petland Discounts, a full-line pet retailer with locations in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, celebrates its 45th anniversary this year. The company’s founder and president, Neil Padron, opened the first store in 1965 with borrowed money and a passion for the pet industry. A recent trip to the company’s headquarters in Brentwood, N.Y., revealed that even after more than four decades in the business, Padron is still very passionate about the pet business.
“It’s just something I enjoy,” Padron said. “I enjoy the livestock. I enjoy the people that have worked with me for all these years. It’s just about doing what you love.”
Growing up, Padron had many pets and many kinds of pets, but he took a special liking to tropical fish. At 17 years old, he decided to take a part-time job with a tropical fish store, mainly, he quipped, to get a good deal on aquatic merchandise.
For two years, he worked off and on at the fish store while he attended college, until one day he saw a space in the Glen Oaks neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., and decided it would make a great tropical fish store. Padron used $1,000 of his own money, borrowed $2,000 from his parents and, with his brother and a friend going in on the deal as partners, opened the first Petland Discounts in September 1965.
What Padron said he remembers most about those early days are working open to close and doing everything in the store from cleaning the tanks to waiting on customers to taking inventory.
“I loved to open the boxes of fish when they’d come in,” Padron recalled.
Within three years, Padron and his business partners had opened two more stores and by the about the fourth store, they had moved to a full-line pet store. In 1968, Padron started All Pet Distributors, which he said allowed him to get products at a better price.
“By doing that you have much better control of your inventory, your fill rate and things like that,” he said. “You’re not relying on somebody else.”
After the ninth store, Padron bought out his partners and became the sole owner of the business. By the company’s 15th anniversary, Padron had opened 15 stores and by the 25th anniversary Padron had opened 50 stores.
Today, the company owns and operates 95 stores in the tri-state area. Petland Discounts offers a full line of pet supplies as well as live fish, birds and small animals.
The 83,000-square-foot-facility in Brentwood houses Petland Discounts’ corporate headquarters and the warehouse for All Pet Distributors, which provides all of the goods and livestock to Petland Discounts stores.
During a tour of the facility, Padron, with his Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Marlee, in tow, pointed out the numerous notes posted on the animals’ enclosures indicating when each of the animals were last fed and cared for.
Providing quality fish and livestock is one of the key factors Padron attributes to the company’s success. It’s crucial to keeping customers coming back for years, whether for pet care supplies or for new pets, he said.
“Our industry is not dependent on people,” Padron said. “It’s dependent on the animals, so the animals have to be healthy and [customers] have to be happy having them.”
Padron cited a number of other key factors he believes have contributed to the company’s success. Among them are product selection, fair pricing, merchandise availability, customer service and creating a family-like work atmosphere.
Family seems to be a big theme at Petland Discounts. Both of Padron’s daughters work for the company and employee records show that quite a few of the roughly 700 employees have worked for Petland Discounts for 20 or 30 years.
“That’s the key to success—good people who are dedicated and caring,” Padron said.
Over the years, Padron said, he’s seen the pet industry landscape change with the onslaught of big box stores. However, he said he believes it’s in the hands of the owner-operated retailers to keep the pet industry thriving into the future. Owner-operated retailers have the expertise and the knowledge when it comes to tropical fish, birds and small animals, and that is critical when it comes to keeping customers in the hobby and remaining as pet owners, he said.
Looking ahead, Padron said he plans to continue growing at a slow and steady pace within the New York area. Padron said, above all else, he wants Petland Discounts to remain a trusted neighborhood pet shop.
“We hope to be here for another 45 years,” he said. <HOME>
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