The Pereiras turn their passion for providing bakery-fresh treats and food for pets into a “have-it-all” vocation.
By Lizett Bond
Back in the early ‘90s, Edson and Carla Pereira of Piglet’s Pantry in Mount Dora, Fla., appeared to have it all: high-powered, high paying careers in Manhattan with the lifestyle to match. One day, while vacationing at the Florida coast, they turned to each other and said, “There has to be more to life.” The attack at the World Trade Center in 1993 was the final shove that propelled them to a new life in Florida. They traded in their 22nd floor offices at the WTC for new digs at sea level.
|Carla and Edson Pereira with Neve, one of their greyhound “greeters.”|
“When we moved to Florida, it was a different experience for me. I was used to the city with people all around and Edson was working some nights. I wanted company,” said Carla. “I knew I wanted a dog but not a puppy.”
Turning to a local rescue, she acquired her first greyhound, Piglet. Their adoptee did not live up to her name in the appetite department and soon Edson was creating and baking his own treat recipes to entice the new family member.
It worked and the word spread. Soon friends, neighbors and co-workers were requesting the delicacies for their canine friends. The Pereiras began traveling to craft fairs and farmer’s markets with their wares.
Upon discovering Mount Dora during their fair travels, Carla commented, “I could open a shop here.”
Piglet’s Pantry became reality in 1997 with the store’s namesake serving as official store greeter along with fellow adoptees Tigger and Kricket. All three greyhounds have since passed on, but the Pereiras continue the tradition with Neve, Cocoa and Pharoah.
“We always say Piglet was the inspiration for our business,” Carla said.
|To ensure there is something for everyone, Piglet’s Pantry carries a range of goods, from logo’d T-shirts to a wide array of packaged treats.|
With a recent expansion, Piglet’s Pantry now provides 2,000 square feet of shopping and snacking satisfaction. The focus is the fresh baked treats Edson creates and packages, using his special recipes. Looking every bit the high-end patisserie for humans, the business offers an eye-catching array of treats, featuring 38 selections with names such as Bacon Twists, Woof Bars, Muddy Paws and Pupcakes.
A presentation of made-to-order party cakes looks celebratory enough to grace any festive table. They are made from high-quality, human-grade ingredients and there is something to gratify every canine desire. Customers can also purchase pre-packaged treats from displays near the bakery case.
“That’s our main passion,” Carla said. “Bakery fresh everyday, better than some bakeries.”
Edson guards his recipes carefully, but noted there is no trick to making dog treats.
“I use the best ingredients available, the most important being a passion to make delicious treats for the dogs,” Edson said.
Along with bakery goodies, Piglet’s Pantry stocks a large selection of leashes and collars, and a variety of natural dog foods. It also carries frozen raw food.
In addition, the store stocks a mix of boutique merchandise, such as toys, accessories, gift, grooming and spa items. The Pereiras also carry T-shirts with different sayings and logos related to dogs, cats and horses. Mount Dora is horse country and Edson has developed his own horse-treat specialties.
To satisfy human shoppers’ gift needs, Piglet’s Pantry offers a collection of products featuring the artwork of Laurel Burch.
“I have always been a huge fan of Laurel Burch,” Carla said. “I love her colors and have a lot her art in my home. She does so many dogs and cats. We carry bags, scarves, socks and mugs from her line.”
Because of their concentration on boutique items, competition is not limited to pet stores, and with Orlando only 30 minutes away, some of the larger department stores can effect business as well.
AT A GLANCE
Location: 400 N. Donnelly St., Mount Dora, Fla.
Owner: Carla and Edson Pereira
Size: 2,000 square feet
Employees: 1 full time
Years in Business: 13
Products and Services Offered: Fresh baked natural dog treats, boutique gift items, accessories and supplies for dogs, cats and horses plus natural dog foods.
Community involvement, therefore, plays a huge role in their visibility. With a mix of clientele, from small children to retirees, the Pereiras manage to offer something for everyone. A popular event continues to be Yappy Hour. Held once a month in conjunction with the wine shop next door, it offers wine tasting, hors d’oeuvres for two- and four-legged guests, a live band and the opportunity to mingle and socialize. Aside from being a social gathering, the purpose of Yappy Hour is to raise funds for the local Humane Society. A percentage of all sales is set aside in order to reach a year-end goal.
“Yappy Hour runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., but has lasted until 10 p.m. It is so much fun. We have games for the dogs, everyone has a good time and we are raising money for a good cause,” Carla said.
Piglet’s Pantry also holds “Rescue Sundays.” These adoption days highlight several different area greyhound rescues.
“I love every breed of dog, but there are not a lot of rescue groups in our area,” Carla said. “Greyhounds have always been my passion, although I offer adoption day opportunities to any group.”
She is also involved in the local organization The Women for Hospice. At Christmas time, they hold a “Season of Trees” fundraiser featuring donated decorated Christmas trees.
“We always do a dog scene tree and our trees are the ones that everyone bids on,” she said.
A popular promotion this year is the Carnival Cruise drawing, which will take place in December. Customers spending $50 or more are entered to win a seven-day Carnival Cruise for two to a destination of the winner’s choice.
Advertising for Piglet’s Pantry has been primarily word of mouth and through community involvement.
|The shop’s bakery case features daily handmade treats.|
“When I go to the grocery store I know everyone there,” Carla said. “Every customer who walks through our door is special, even if they have been here 100 times.”
With Edson doing the creating and baking and Carla running the day-to-day operations, Piglet’s Pantry has just one other full time employee, Carla’s sister, Mary Hobson.
For the future, the Pereiras envision opening a dog-friendly resort where people can stay and bring their dogs.
“We have a lot of people come to Mount Dora from all over the central Florida area and often they have no place to stay that will allow their dogs,” Edson said.
A dog park with a swimming pool at the present location is another goal. Expanding the treat business to include more wholesale and a larger facility is a possibility being explored, but they do not want to lose their quality control in the process.
“When we started, we never imagined that we would still be here after 13 years,” Carla said. “We just decided to try it and it works. We have great customers who are always happy! Have you ever met a dog that was not happy? I tell people we are living a dream”
“We are having fun. We like what we are doing. You have to have a passion to make it work,” he said.
Carla and Edson Pereira of Piglet’s Pantry truly found there was more to life in the tiny hamlet of Mount Dora, Fla., thanks to Piglet and her special treats. <HOME>
Lizett Bond is a writer and an award-winning equestrian.
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