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California Pets

Education is paramount for employees and customers alike at this full-line Southern California-based pet store.
By Lizett Bond

Walk through the front door of California Pets in Orange, Calif., and one is greeted by a symphony of avian sounds with almost every orchestral voice represented. Veer to the left and puppies and kittens welcome the eye, along with rabbits, mice, rats, even chinchillas. Wander to the rear of the large, open store and the fish section provides almost any requirement for aquatic enthusiasts. Three walls are lined with viewing tanks  teeming with selections, along with aisles of related merchandise.

California Pets offers something for all types of customers and their pets.
Continue along the other side of the store, and the senses are treated to the trickling sound of water as the koi pond comes into view with its assortment of koi and red-eared slider turtles.

Next come the reptiles and then the orchestra pit, with just about every type of bird on display. Each distinctive area presents a comprehensive selection of books on care, breeds and training. Proceed to the checkout area in the front of the store to discover training videos as well. It’s a feast for pet-loving senses with educational opportunities at every turn.

At California Pets, education wears several hats. A full service pet store in business for more than 20 years, California Pets LLC took over ownership in November 2004. One of the more important aspects of the word ‘full’ is the employee training as well as customer education with regard to pet ownership.


California Pets

Location: 1807 E. Chapman, Orange, Calif., 92867.

Owner: California Pet LLC

Size: 8,400 sq, ft.

Employees: 12 to 15, full and part time

Years in Business: 20+ store; California Pets, 5

Products and Services Offered: All types of pets and an accompanying comprehensive range of pet supplies, food and accoutrements; birthday parties for children; pets in the classroom school program.


“We have employee meetings every Sunday, two hour meetings before the store opens,” said Diana Cereceda, general manager. “We go over new products, provide more information on specific species of birds or breeds of dogs or answer any questions or problems that may have come up during the week,” she added..

Sales manager Bonnie King is responsible for employee training with regard to animal care, customer service and sales. Part of her ongoing training includes attending seminars that provide information to benefit the store.

Cereceda’s responsibilities include ensuring that employees are performing at the top of their capabilities and supplying materials to help them stay there. She monitors the animals for health and also orders merchandise while supervising all areas of store function.

Housed in 8,400 square feet with an extensive inventory, the store features a broad range of product in addition to the pets. This results in a lot of information for an employee to learn and retain.

“We provide reading materials, packets for employees to take home with informational folders by department,” Cereceda said.

The store can carry anywhere from 25 to 35 puppies at one time, housed in kennels placed behind glass to allow visibility. Breeds represented depend on demand, but most are toys, miniatures and medium-sized dogs. As space can be an issue for prospective owners, California Pets doesn’t carry many of the larger breeds. 

Birthday party shack for young pet lovers.

“It is important that employees know the characteristics of the different breeds,” Cereceda said. “For example, which breeds fit well with a family with small children, which dogs maintain a high energy level and require more exercise, or might bond with only one person. In order to educate customers and help find a good fit, employee training is a must and takes on an importance,” she added.

This training applies not only to puppies but also to kittens, birds, reptiles and fish.

While primarily trained in a specific department, staff members are also cross-trained, allowing them to assist in other departments. They are therefore able to aid customers in making the proper purchase to fit their pet’s needs, be it a kitten, a puppy, a parrot or a gerbil.

Merchandise includes an extensive selection of supplies needed for pets to live comfortably. Included in the mix are dog strollers, carriers, bedding, collars and leashes, as well as food, toys, supplements and vitamins. There are large cages for parrots, terrariums and aquariums, along with chemicals for ponds. At every turn, it is easy to find books.

Named “Best Pet Supplies in Orange County” for 2008 and 2009 by MyFOX L.A., California Pets lives up to the title. In addition to pets and supplies, there is a dog groomer on site, and the store offers the services of a dog trainer.

California Pets offers a full array of dog toys and accessories.
Going a step further, California Pets helps see to the needs of displaced pets by donating food to a local animal shelter. A nearby dog park is the recipient of poop bags for canine visitors. Store representatives are a presence at Pet Faires in Orange County, Calif., as well as participants at a local street fair occurring several times per year.

Lending a hand to local pet rescues, the store recently held a “blow out” sale of large dog crates. Many stores don’t carry this size, which rescues need, so by providing these crates at wholesale prices, rescue groups were able to add to their own inventory.

Advertising includes a commercial running on a local television cable network as well as advertising in several area publications. While small neighborhood pet stores are fast becoming a thing of the past and there are none nearby to compete, several of the large chain pet stores reside in the vicinity and area grocery stores are very competitive in their pricing of pet food and products. By going the extra mile, the store is able to compete with these venues.

California Pets offers a wide range of herps and all their product needs, including vivariums, food and accessories
“We provide outstanding customer service and carry a larger variety for every need,” Cereceda said. “It is not necessarily pricing but atmosphere that draws our customers. They like the employees, the location and they like that we care about pets. They bring their pets to visit, and we ask their names and how they are doing.

“We look for employees that are able to connect with our customers in this way, while providing knowledge and making them feel at home. You have to stay up to date and love animals to make this business happen,” she added.

California Pets has 12 to15 employees at any one time, and many are from the local community colleges and high schools.

“We do a lot of training, and our employees are pretty open to telling us if they do not understand a concept,” Cereceda said.

Learning styles are an important consideration with regard to instruction and personnel are encouraged to take notes, read and ask questions. Manufacturers are also invited to do presentations of their products to impart even more information.

All that schooling calls for a little party atmosphere, and in keeping with the informative environment throughout the store, California Pets now provides the opportunity for area children to learn about pets and pet care by presenting birthday parties in a special room just for that function. 

A two-hour affair, the festivities are tailored to the age of the attendees as they learn about mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians. Within that timeframe, up to 10 types of animals are presented to the children. The special “pet educators” are familiar with the animals showcased via hands-on experience. With five trained educators, it’s a popular employee function. Pet educators rotate so all have the opportunity to teach and stay fresh. After the pet presentations, children feast on pizza or sandwiches provided by the store and participate in craft activities. Parents have the option of bringing a birthday cake or cupcakes to the affair.

At California Pets, everyone gets an education as they browse through an extensive selection of pets and product to the accompaniment of a rousing opus that resonates throughout. Bravo! <HOME>

Lizett Bond is a writer and an award-winning equestrian.

This article first appeared in the December 2009 issue of Pet Product News International

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