Posted: Oct. 1, 2012, 1:45 p.m. EDT
Zen-Inspired Pet Care
The Petropolitan in Dallas excels at promoting pet health and well-being, and dedicates itself to connecting people with companion animals.
By Wendy Bedwell-Wilson
Chris Watts, co-owner of full-service pet care facility The Petropolitan in Dallas, has dedicated his professional career to grooming, pet sitting and playing with dogs and cats—but that’s just the start of how he and his team have touched the lives of companion animals and their owners.
This retailer and pet care provider—recently named Pet Product News International’s Outstanding Grooming Salon in its 2012-2013 Retailer of the Year contest—has a place in his heart for orphaned dogs and cats, and he has made it his mission to help as many as possible find forever homes.
The Petropolitan incorporates a Zen vibe throughout its facility.
“We take care of pets every day, but our world and what we do is so much bigger than the four walls that we’re in,” Watts said.
A Labor of Love
In 2001 following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Watts—like many people at that time—rethought his career path. He and his longtime partner slaved for corporate America but had a dream to work with animals, so they strived to make it a reality.
“At that point, we both couldn’t abandon our corporate jobs to do what we were passionate about, so I went to work for a grooming shop and managed it for six years while he stayed with IBM,” Watts said.
During this first foray into the pet industry, Watts discovered something that changed his life.
“I learned that there were two kinds of people in the industry: those who were really passionate about the animals, and those who were passionate about the dollars,” he said. “So we realized at that point that there was some opportunity for some really great change not just in the Dallas market but nationally.”
Watts left that job. Just 60 days later, he opened The Petropolitan.
“In Nov. 2006, we opened the doors to our own place,” he said. “And that was a labor of our love. We did the whole build-out, everything that was necessary in literally 60 days. It’s amazing what can happen when you’ve got passion.”
Rescue, Community Focused
From the day the shop opened, Watts positioned The Petropolitan as a partner in the overall health and well-being of its four-legged customers. The services offered at the Zen-inspired 4,000-square-foot facility include pet grooming, “play” care, extended care, dog walking, in-home services, veterinarian runs, bereavement services, behavior consultations and product awareness. The staff uses aromatherapy, TTouch therapy and soothing music to make the grooming and daycare experience enjoyable for canine clients.
However, what makes this shop truly stand out from the rest is its dedication to the Dallas-area rescue and adoption community.
Services offered at the Zen-inspired 4,000-square-foot facility include pet grooming.
“We are fortunate enough to have very close ties to numerous rescue organizations and to local animal services,” Watts said. “On an ongoing basis, we serve as an alternate foster location for a handful of pets at any one time. Everyone on staff takes the role seriously and finds it to be one of the most rewarding aspects of our job.”
To date, The Petropolitan has fostered close to 70 animals—but that’s not all. It helps these animals find permanent homes.
“We look at ourselves as an integral part of the rehabilitation of these animals in an effort to make them more adoptable,” Watts said. “Within a couple of weeks, these animals are well socialized with other animals and with numerous people. They learn to play, learn a routine, make friends, accept treats and experience human friendship in a way they may not have before.”
The shop is also involved in the vetting process, Watts said.
“If somebody is interested in an animal, they can complete an on-site adoption application through us,” he said. “We’re able to interview the customer, meet the family, see if it is a great fit, and be able to really be a continuing component to their family as well.”
In addition to fostering animals and facilitating their adoptions, The Petropolitan sits on a number of boards, commissions and steering committees, including five of Dallas’ largest animal welfare fundraisers.
Doing Things Right
As recipients of more than 20 “best of” honors—including Pet Product News International’s Outstanding Grooming Salon, Petropolitan is doing something right. Check out these easy-to-incorporate tips that co-owner Chris Watts uses daily in his full service pet care and retail facility:
• Dogs welcome: Customers are encouraged to bring their four-legged pals into the shop’s boutique area, where they’re greeted with “a warm hello, a scratch behind the ears and lots of belly rubs,” said Watts.
• Merchandised for canine clients: The shop displays lots of treats and toys at snout level, allowing its furry shoppers to take in all those delicious scents and stimulating sights—and hopefully convince their owners to splurge.
• Try before you buy: The toys in The Petropolitan’s play care area are the same ones sold in the boutique. This allows the pups to interact with the toys while their owners can see how the playthings hold up.
• Share samples: When the shop introduces a new product or line, they offer customers samples of them to try at home. “When customers see how a products works, they’re more likely to use it and purchase it,” Watts said.
• Work with suppliers: The Petropolitan recently worked with a new food manufacturer to release its brand in the Dallas area. Watts and his team used consumer forums, online press releases and social media to generate excitement about it—so much so that it resulted in significant pre-orders before the official launch.
• Focus on what you know: Rather than catering to fads and trends, The Petropolitan stays focused on “what we know, what works well, and what supports our mission of providing excellent customer service and products to our customers,” Watts said.
“We are active in the community through volunteering, event planning and sponsorship, and general giving,” Watts said, who shares his home with five rescued dogs and two cats.
He estimates that in 2011 he and his employees volunteered more than 1,500 hours of their time to the nonprofit and animal welfare community.
“We not only talk the talk of animal welfare and serving our community,” Watts said. “Through our actions and deeds, we strive to walk the walk every day!”
Being a pet store and pet care service provider, The Petropolitan also does an excellent job promoting the many benefits of pet ownership.
Catering to the shop’s downtown Dallas community, which has transitioned into a residential haunt with high-rise conversions to apartment and condo units populated with pet lovers, Watts and his team regularly host meet-and-greet events for regular and prospective customers.
“We also host meet and greets at the residences, highlighting the services available and reinforcing that pet ownership is definitely an option in an urban environment,” he said.
Take, for example, a partnership between The Petropolitan and Metroplex Animal Coalition. The shop provided a $10,000 services donation to the coalition to assist the elderly and disabled in caring for their animals by providing vouchers for grooming.
“Our first client was an 89-year-old woman who suffered from Tourette syndrome,” Watts said. “Her companion is a 9-year-old Australian shepherd named Tiger who provides her with constant friendship and love. She could no longer afford to have her friend groomed and was afraid she might have to relinquish him to someone who could afford the expense. We now are happy to provide grooming for Tiger and many others through this program.”
The Petropolitan also helps pet owners better care for their animals by offering a range of professional, affordable services and products.
“We are given the privilege of providing services and care for a beloved member of someone’s family and we take that role seriously,” Watts said. “We work with our customers directly to develop a plan of action for each companion and recommend products that truly meet the client’s needs. Supplements, shampoo and skin-care products, treats and toys are all things that we recommend on an individual level based on the needs of the animal.”
Grassroots, Social Networking
To get the word out about The Petropolitan’s products and services to its 7,000-plus client base, Watts uses social networking platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, along with traditional grassroots marketing methods.
“We utilize the media to connect with current and potential customers, alerting them to specials, product information, pet-welfare news and some of the fun animal antics that take place at the shop,” he said. “At a costume contest held last Easter, we were the first small business to utilize a QR reader to code allow virtual voting, which allowed us to capture potential new customer data.”
Still, the one-on-one connections with clients through events, community involvement and social interaction has been the company’s most effective marketing tools, Watts said.
At a Glance
Location: 408 South Harwood, Dallas, TX 75201
Owners: Chris Watts and Todd Fisher
Size: 4,000 square feet
Employees: 10 full time
Years in Business: 12
Products and Services Offered: Products for dogs, cats and humans; services include adoption, grooming, boarding, delivery and educational seminars.
“We work with large residences to sponsor ‘doggie socials,’ which give us an opportunity to have direct interaction with potential clients,” he said. “We sponsor Easter in the Park Pooch Parade, The Petropolitan Howl-O-Ween and Pet Psychic Fair, and The Petropolitan Santa-Paws Parade and Rescue Celebration.”
And, of course, they enjoy word-of-mouth publicity, too.
“The most effective and least expensive type of marketing is word-of-mouth,” Watts said. “That’s why we strive to ensure that both our two- and four-legged clients experience excellent customer service and see that, for us, it’s all about the animal!”
Eyes on the Future
With a solid business model that focuses on providing a broad spectrum of products and services for the urban animal, Watts said he plans to expand The Petropolitan to urban locales throughout the state, including Austin and other sustainable markets.
“Since we were able to make it through the fifth year, which is such a critical year for small business, the next thing for us to really do is to start looking at opening two to three stores in the next year and a half, and then from there looking at the larger picture,” Watts said.
“We always said we were going to change an industry—or influence it at least,” he said. “And we’ve been able to achieve that from one location in Dallas. Now let’s see how we can do it elsewhere!”<HOME>
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