Retailer Excellence Award

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Many Services, One Goal

The Green K9 is a one-stop shop that combines a focus on healthy pet products with services that cultivate client loyalty and trust.

By Hannah Miller
Published:

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Consumers are becoming just as invested in their pets’ health as they are in their own. The Green K9 in Mount Dora, Fla. has capitalized on this trend by offering a high-end selection of pet wellness products in addition to a monthly vaccination clinic, overnight boarding, grooming and day care. This retailer provides convenience to its customers by housing all these services at one location, a feat that is just as challenging as it is rewarding.

The vision for The Green K9 has its roots in an earlier business venture executed by husband-and-wife team Paul and Marni Lewis. An unpleasant experience with their own dogs spurred the Lewises to obtain a small business loan and build the first luxury pet boarding facility in South Florida. After opening in 2001, Tail End Resort began to flourish and received significant press attention. In 2008, the Lewises sold the business to a national boarding chain.

After attending Global Pet Expo, the Lewises were inspired to go into the pet retail industry. They wanted to build the ultimate pet resort that included a large retail store. The couple moved to Mount Dora in Central Florida because they felt that the area needed this kind of multi-service pet business.

As the result of several financial setbacks, including an attempt to start an online healthy pet product store, the Lewises resorted to selling their final asset, a 1964 Convertible Volkswagen Beetle. They were able to use the money to open The Green K9’s first location in Tavares, Fla., in 2010.

The Lewises ran the business themselves, allowing them to personally connect with their customers and the community. The facility offered dog and cat products in addition to day care, bathing services and pet birthday parties.

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By 2012, growing success and funding from a loyal customer allowed The Green K9 to move to its current location in Mount Dora. The Lewises were close enough to their original store to be able to maintain their client base, but they now had a much bigger space at 7,200 square feet. They added full grooming services and overnight boarding to their repertoire.

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Promoting Pet Health

The Green K9 combines its services with a wide selection of healthy pet products. Before opening The Green K9, the Lewises had lost five of their pets to cancer and became more interested in pet wellness products. With their store’s product offerings, the Lewises hope to help customers maintain a healthy lifestyle for their pets.

“Our store is a collection of only the highest quality pet products with a strong focus on eco-friendly,” says Marni Lewis. “Our mission is to provide customers with products, services and education that help them maintain a healthy lifestyle for their pets, while protecting the environment.”

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This premium offering is the result of a strict selection process used in choosing products. Pet food and treats must use the highest quality ingredients, preferably come from a family-owned business, are not mass-produced for big-box stores and provide a high percentage of animal protein, as opposed to being high in carbohydrates and fillers. They must also be free of corn, wheat, byproducts, unidentified meat meal, soy, artificial dyes and preservatives or harmful chemicals such as BHA.

For non-food products, The Green K9 carries goods that are made in the USA, produced from recycled or recyclable materials, organic or holistic. Through these requirements, the Lewises hope to provide healthy, exciting and unique products for their customers.

“We are always seeking out new and innovative pet products to keep our store fresh and ahead of the competition,” Lewis explains. “We try to find things that you can’t get anywhere else.”

Customer education is also an important component in The Green K9’s promotion of pet health. Every staff member is informed in detail about the store’s specific offerings and is trained to help customers find products that solve common health issues.

The Green K9 also provides brochures with titles like “Do you know what’s in your dog’s treats?” Free samples of healthy treats accompany this brochure, so customers can see if they pass the taste test with their dogs.

“Customers are hungry for information about caring for their pet, so once they know the facts, they can make the right choices,” says Lewis.

Paired with this emphasis on pet health is the personalized and hands-on approach that The Green K9 uses in all of its services. Each dog that boards at The Green K9 receives a head-to-tail inspection that assesses any visible grooming or health issues such as flaky skin, ear infections or hot spots.

Evaluations occur both at the beginning and end of the dog’s stay. Staff members help alleviate any problems during the dog’s visit, and when clients return to pick up their pets, they receive an inspection sheet that details any outstanding issues, provides recommendations and lists any complimentary grooming services provided.

“This leads to customers scheduling future baths and grooms and purchasing products and food in our store that help solve issues,” says Lewis.

The Green K9 also provides accommodations to meet each dog’s individual needs. For example, if a dog suffers from separation anxiety, it can sleep with a staff member or share a space with another dog, with the owner’s approval.

Special care is also taken with the facility itself. The space is meant to appeal to a visitor’s sense of smell, sight and sound. The Green K9 is kept immaculately clean to create a welcoming and odor-free environment. While boarding facilities are often stressful and loud, everyone at The Green K9 works to maintain a quiet and calm ambience. Dogs go on hourly outings to expend energy and reduce barking.

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Unique challenges accompany the management of a multi-service business housed at one location. From servicing a high volume of customers in one lobby to fielding phone calls to scheduling staff, every day at The Green K9 involves some juggling.

In terms of product sales, Lewis says the key is to not keep retail shoppers waiting and to give all customers an equal amount of attention. “Retail customers should never feel that they are less important because they aren’t checking in or out a dog,” she says.

Another way in which The Green K9 strives to make customers feel valued is through a frequent- buyer program that offers free food bags as incentives. The store also stays engaged with clients through a strong social media presence. They post daily photos of their canine guests and new products on Instagram and Facebook.

Community Connections

One of the most visible ways that The Green K9 connects with customers and the community is through the charity events they host.

“Raising money for rescue groups has always been a priority for us,” says Lewis. A popular event was Pups on the Patio, a monthly block party that raised money for local shelters. The Green K9 also donates food and treats to a local food pantry and holds educational sessions for groups like the Girl Scouts. They even foster dogs up for adoption in their boarding facility.

As a retailer with multiple services, an eco-friendly emphasis and close ties to the community, The Green K9 has found an innovative formula for success. But at the heart of the business is a simple, steadfast goal to put pets—and their health—first. PB