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Focusing on the Good: Holistic Pet Center

Holistic Pet Center helps maintain healthy pets and a healthy business community.
By Devon McPhee

The best gift you can give to your dogs or cats is their health,” said Chip Sammons, owner and founder of the Holistic Pet Center in Clackamas, Ore. Sammons was selected as a runner up in Pet Product News International’s 2009-2010 Retailer of the Year contest and was  the winner in the Outstanding Holistic retailer category.

For Chip Sammons, his Holistic Pet Center is more than just an excellent healthy food resource for pet owners, he also offers a wide range of toys and grooming products to ensure every dog’s and cat’s needs are completely met.
It is a belief that Sammons holds close to his heart. Sammons opened the Holistic Pet Center more than 21 years ago, following the death of his beloved boxer Buster. Buster died when he was 41⁄2 years old, partly from the poor ingredients found in most dog foods, Sammons maintains.

The mission of the store, Sammons said, is to help customers look past the advertising to the ingredients that their pets are digesting and offer healthy alternatives.

“Anyone can slap ‘natural’ on a product, so Holistic Pet Center needs to be better at finding out what the ingredients really are, what they really mean,” he said. “At the end of the day, our job is to pass along good information, and if we’re doing our job, our customers’ dogs and cats will live long, healthy lives.”

Sammons and his employees spend a lot of time researching food and treats to make sure they match the store’s criteria: no artificial preservatives, no by-products, no nitrates, no sugar and no artificial colors or flavors. If the products do not pass muster, the store will not stock them, no matter how good the deal or promotion, Sammons said.

“Anyone who walks into the store can’t make a bad choice because we don’t carry bad ingredients,” he said.

The Whole Picture

AT A GLANCE


Holistic Pet Center

Location: 15599 S.E. 82nd Drive, Clackamas, Ore.

Owner: Chip Sammons

Size: 2,000 square-feet

Employees: Five part-time

Years in Business: 21

Products and Services Offered: Provides organic, holistic food, supplements and vitamins for cats and dogs, as well as toys, accessories and outdoor products for pets.

Sammons’ adherence to holistic principals extends to the operation of his business, as well. “Holistic means all the parts that make up the whole, so it just depends on what whole you’re talking about at any given time,” he said.

For instance, Sammons serves on several county committees, including a workforce council, a community-college foundation board, the executive council of local business alliances, a military scholarship board and the local chamber of commerce. His involvement on these committees helps the county prosper, which in turn helps him prosper, he said.

“I live and work in Clackamas County, which means [the county] is me,” he said. “And if I don’t help local organizations, many of them will no longer exist, and if I don’t get involved with government, I don’t know what’s going on.”

Another part that makes up the whole is independent pet stores, Sammons said. He supports fellow independent retailers through various venues, including a weekly radio show he hosts, because these retailers share a set of values that, unlike big box stores, are focused on quality and not profitability, he said.

Customer education about their pets’ health is paramount at the Holistic Pet Center. The knowledgeable staff at Holistic Pet Center can provide detailed information on a range of  pet-related topics, including holistic flea control and the benefits of feeding pets a raw diet
“I belong to a community of independent pet stores, and it’s a community I love,” he said. “I promote other pet stores on my radio show because we’re the ones making sure that good products get out into the public.”And then there is the community of animal lovers. All of the Holistic Pet Center’s employees are involved in some form of animal-based community organization, from participating rescue groups to volunteering at the zoo.

Sammons also co-founded and serves as vice president for Friends Involved in Dog Outreach (FIDO)—a nonprofit that helps local shelters take care of their animals. He also developed AniMeals, a meals-on-wheels program for the pets of housebound seniors, and a dog food bank  for dog owners who are in financial need.

“When I can see the number of dogs and cats that we’ve had an affect on, it feels good,” Sammons said.

Recent Innovations

Serving the community within Holistic Pet Center means keeping things interesting in the store. Sammons recently developed a new promotional campaign inspired by daily specials at restaurants.

Every day, the store features a new item at a discounted price, usually a half to a third off. The items are a mix of regular store items and new finds, but the goal for every item, Sammons said, is the same: Get customers to try something new. At the time of the interview, the store had been holding the promotion for about a month, with great success.

Helping Those in Need

With the recent economic downturn, many pet owners can no longer afford to feed their pets and they make the painful choice to turn them into animal shelters because they no longer can care for them. Chip Sammons, owner of Holistic Pet Center in Clackamas, Ore., recognized this issue in his community and did something about—he started a Dog Food Bank.

The food bank concept is a simple one: Sammons collects dog and cat food donations and distributes them to families in need.

“When I give food to someone and they thank me from the bottom of their heart, often with tears in their eyes because this is the only way they can keep their pet, it makes me feel good,” Sammons said.

Word about the program spread quickly both locally and nationally, with news channels from across Oregon and the country airing segments about it. As a result, Sammons receives donations from as far away as Alaska and Florida.

“It’s wonderful hearing from individuals who ‘just want to help out,’” he said. “And it’s great motivation for possibly expanding the food bank program.”  —DM

“Now, when customers come in, the first thing that many of them ask is, ‘What’s the daily special?’” Sammons said.Next up, the store will be focusing on social media. Sammons plans to set up a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, as well as launch an electronic newsletter. This foray into social media will help get the word out about what the Holistic Pet Center is doing and further the store’s mission to educate consumers about their pets’ health, Sammons said.

 “People have lots of questions with really simple answers, but they don’t always know how to find the good answers if they’re looking on the web,” he said. “If people know they can count on us for good information, then making it easier for them to reach us on the web will make it easier for them to find the good information.” <HOME>

Devon McPhee is a former associate news editor of Pet Product News  International with more than 10 years of publishing experience; she currently lives and writes in Chicago.

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


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