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9:52 PM   September 01, 2014
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Well Bred: Retailer of the Year Runner-Up

Everything tasteful for impeccably mannered, health-conscious pet owners.
By Lizett Bond

Transitioning from a profession as a social worker to pet-boutique owner seems a significant career change, but Patti Storms of Well Bred in Chester, N.J., found that similarities between the two callings allowed her to enhance a life-long love of animals and a passion for helping people.

Well Bred first opened in 2001 with 700 square feet of retail space before moving in April 2008 to a 1,500-square-foot, freestanding building on the main street of the historic town.

“When I first opened in 2001, I was a little bit ahead of the pet boutique curve,” Storms said. “There were not any in northeast New Jersey. Having lived on the West Coast, I knew these places existed and I wanted to carry a unique mix of product that couldn’t be found in the larger retail outlets.”

Storms ensures that Well Bred is as enticing on the outside as it is inside.
Storms turned to traditional advertising to get her message out, including a weekly ad in the local newspaper.

She is also a regular contributor to the same paper with her pet-care column. Originally begun in the voice of Sidney, the shop cat, she has continued after the loss of Sidney and now calls the column “Pets with Patti.” Columns address different aspects of pet ownership, such as the importance of neutering pets.

A few of her pieces are posted on the Well Bred website along with the story of Sidney.

The majority of Well Bred’s shoppers are locals who are busy raising their children. These families are looking for high-quality pet products and an enjoyable shopping experience. Well Bred carries quality natural foods that also provide a good value for its customers.

“My customers are different from some of the smaller boutiques’ clientele in New York City, for example,” she said. “Here their kids come first and their dogs are their dogs. They have big old Labs and golden retrievers.”

An attractive bakery-style glass case displays gourmet treats, all of which contain human-grade ingredients.

“All the foods that I carry are the higher-quality ingredients, no ‘le junk,’ as I like to refer to it,” Storms said.

“I work with several bakeries for the dog treats, all relatively small businesses,” she added.

In addition to the gourmet bakery products, Well Bred offers a large selection of packaged treats that address most desires or concerns. As a result, the packaged treats are quite popular and represent a large portion of treat sales.

“We have wheat-free, soy-free and meat-free, for example, as well as alternative proteins, just about anything you could ask for in packaged treats,” she noted.

AT A GLANCE


Well Bred

Location: 25 Main St., Chester, NJ 07930

Owner: Patti Storms

Size: 1,500 square feet

Employees: Three part time

Years in Business: Eight

Products and Services Offered: A boutique and a bakery, the shop provides high-quality gourmet treats; dog and cat foods; gift items and a wide variety of pet accessories, including collars, leashes and toys, to its customers. Services include new-pet seminars, quarterly pet-photo sessions and guest-speaker presentations.

In addition, the store offers a large selection of naturally roasted bones and bully sticks. Real, naturally shed elk antlers are a popular long-lasting treat; big dogs can chew on them and they do not splinter like bones, Storms reported. In addition, Well Bred also stocks product for cats, including food, treats and toys.

Community involvement is an integral part of the Well Bred philosophy and follows numerous avenues. A favorite is the service-dog industry and the local New Jersey chapter of Canine Companions for Independence.

“I have lots of appreciation for how these service animals are used and try to provide plenty of support,” she said.

One way Well Bred accomplishes this is by donating specifically designed dog treats for fundraisers. Last fall, Well Bred sponsored a Healthy Pet Expo, inviting representatives from the local service-dog chapter, boarding facility and dog-grooming salon. Customers were able to come into the store to learn more about these service providers.

Community involvement can also be fun, as witnessed by her Sleepy Pet photo contest, the results of which are on the Well Bred website. The shop has hosted a visit by a pet communicator, which was so successful there will soon be another date offered. A pet photographer comes to the store four times per year to provide photo sessions for pets and their owners.

Located in an affluent area, Well Bred connects with the community in a variety of meaningful ways, from catering fundraisers to hosting local events in the shop’s parking lot. At one catered affair, a dog guest gazes wistfully at a plateful of dog treats (top). The annual Chester, N.J., car show attracts visitors—and potential customers—throughout the day. One roadster on display came complete with a live-sized stuffed Bernese in the passenger seat.
Storms also conducts seminars to help families prepare for the addition of a new pet. In the class, discussion includes different breeds that might be appropriate, as well as time, energy and money commitments and training information.

“I’m still doing social work but the setting has changed,” she said. “I do it now when a customer comes in with a pet problem, perhaps a dog tearing up a house, and I’ll ask if there is something else that might have changed in their life that might be affecting their pet.

“It’s the social worker part of me,” she added.

Well Bred is also collecting pet food and supplies for a local food pantry for families who are in need. Many have pets that they would hate to give up. According to Storms, residents don’t always realize there are families with pets needing assistance, since the store is in an affluent area. Collecting supplies for distribution provides support and raises community awareness.

Storms employs three part-time staff members and looks for people who are very dog and people friendly, with an engaging personality. She wants an approach that goes beyond “Can I help you?”

“I like to make it fun for customers to be around people who care and are interested,” she said.

“People like to be able to have someplace to go where no one will think they are crazy.” Storms continued. “They want to be able to say that their dog doesn’t like the blue toy, he likes pink. I can say, ‘Look around you, I don’t think you are crazy. I mean, consider where you are and who you are talking to.’”

As far as the future, Storms feels fortunate to be where she is right now.

“I’m grateful,” she said. “I’m trundling along and it’s an interesting time to be in business. The pet industry has historically been very resistant to economic downturns, and it has continued to be so during these times, which are the worst I’ve been through.”

Storms said she believes a main ingredient for success is a willingness to change and to see the need for those changes ahead of time. Providing her customers with the best value for their money and searching for that combination of quality and value is key as well.

“I’ve had to change a lot to stay on my toes,” she said. “Sometimes there is another solution to a problem, you just have to think outside the box before you see it.

Patti Storms captures an attendee’s attention during a seminar on dog nutrition, held at a 4-H camp. Well Bred participates in similar programs year round.
“We are in a wealthy area, and our customers will only spend top dollar if the item is really worth it,” she added. “It’s a juggling act, but as a small niche business I know that my success depends on it.”

Storms has made one other change in adapting to her new career.

“Well Bred has a huge dog-collar and leash selection because dogs don’t wear shoes,” she said. “I’m a real shoe hound, and since I’m on my feet all day now, I can’t indulge in my own passion for shoes. So I buy dog collars and leashes.”

For Patti Storms and Well Bred, it’s all about combining her passion for animals and serving people. <HOME>

Lizett Bond is a freelance writer based in Southern California. An award-winning equestrian, Lizett shares her home with two horses, a dog, a cat and numerous chickens.


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Well Bred: Retailer of the Year Runner-Up

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