BY JAKE EISENBERG AND MARCEL WARFIELD — At the Big Bad Woof pet store in Hyattsville, where dog bowls line the walls and the air is filled with smooth jazz and the smell of puppies, visitors can shop for organic pet food and environmentally friendly pet toys. And since September, customers have been able to have purchases delivered to their homes.
“We really felt the neighborhood needed a good pet supply store. We love pets, and we wanted to bring the way that we live—eating organic foods—to a store that we opened, with a ‘green’ philosophy,” said owner Pennye Jones-Napier. “We wanted to be there for the community and its pets.”
The delivery service idea, according to Jones-Napier, came from a close friend and customer who found herself purchasing some of her pet supplies from an online retailer. She said she knew she could provide the same service at a lower cost, with the benefit of being a local business.
Like all new ventures, the new service faces challenges, but Jones-Napier said the business is working through the obstacles. Now, the owner said, drivers bring a flashlight during night deliveries and plastic bags when it’s raining.
“It’s a personalized touch that makes the business special and different,” said Jones-Napier. “We’re always looking at improving.”
According to Jones-Napier, she founded the Takoma Park business with her partner, Julie Paez, in March 2005. The Hyattsville location opened in August of 2011. Jones-Napier said she expects a third branch to open in Silver Spring within the next year.
The owners say the store has increased its online presence in the last year, including a Facebook page and Twitter account that post tips for taking care of pets.
“This year, I’ve been making a concerted effort to add new sections in [the website] and update our product listing,” said Jones-Napier. “There’s someone on staff now who is looking at revamping the whole website.”
One section of the website is dedicated to lost animals and those in shelters that need a home.
The new delivery option could help offset one of the challenges of operating out of the Arts District. Jones-Napier said she loses a lot of customers because of the parking. Even though the Big Bad Woof has two free spots behind the establishment, she said the city “widely underestimated the amount of parking needed.”
“Parking can be a pain,” said Jeremiah Prevatte, a dog owner and customer. “[The Big Bad Woof] could use more parking spots.”
Parking issues aside, it’s the friendly nature of the employees, who know most customers by name, as well as their knowledge of pet care that keeps pet owners coming back.
The store’s philosophy, according to Jones-Napier, was inspired by her childhood experiences of growing up on her grandparent’s farm in Texas. Today, she said she uses her knowledge of animals and their diets to give advice to customers about how to feed and take care of their pets. The Big Bad Woof hosts monthly “Woof Clinics” to help educate owners, and pets are frequently seen inside.
“I come here for the people; they have all of the foods for your dog, and they’ll give you advice for your pets’ diet,” said customer Susie Talbert, a dog owner. “If you love your dog, you’re going to come [to The Big Bad Woof].”