Centre County Shop
June 29, 2020
A new pet-centric business on Benner Pike provides a one-stop shop for pet owners’ grooming and shopping needs.
Owner and Bellefonte resident Jamie Smith said The Pet Pub, which opened for grooming in early May and for retail shopping after Memorial Day, has been a longtime dream, years in the making.
“I’ve always been in business management my entire career, so in my mind, I was thinking, this is a good business concept … a one-stop shop for animal needs — somewhere you can come in and get your animal groomed, get their license, bathe them yourself …”
Smith took advantage of local entrepreneur resources to get started, including Pennsylvania Girl Gang, a networking group for local, women business owners; the Penn State Small Business Development Center; and Happy Valley LaunchBox. Having resources like these on her side, Smith said, helped her approach opening a new business confidently, alleviating some of her fears around the potentially financially risky proposition.
After two years of market research, planning and meeting with not only local supporters, but also lawyers and banks, Smith was ready to open The Pet Pub’s doors.
Opening during the coronavirus pandemic, she said, provided an easy and slower start to the business, and she’s found customers are supportive and understanding when it comes to the unique challenges COVID-19 precautions create for business owners.
“Right now, we still have some items we’re waiting to get in, just because the areas they’re coming from, either the vendor or distributor isn’t able to travel yet, or stuff is stuck because they have a lot of people working at home, so they don’t have people to make or produce the items. Our store is probably 85 percent stocked,” she said. “But people come in and are understanding if they’re looking for something and we don’t have it.”
The retail portion of the business provides products for dogs, cats and small animals. The store’s interior is what Smith describes as “primitive.”
“When you come into my store, you get a very home-y, old general store-type feel,” she said. “And I’m trying to push customer service. I feel like, over the years, customer service hasn’t been a focal point for some businesses. They’re more worried about numbers or revenue. Honestly, I want the pet and the owner to have the best experience possible, so they feel when they come in that they get the utmost in customer service …”
There are two groomers on staff, offering services to dogs and cats every day except Sunday.
“They’re very caring, understanding and patient with the animals (and) that’s exactly what I’m looking for here. When people drop their pets off, we’re not rushing or trying to get as many dogs or cats in as possible. We’re here to help them and make sure the pets feel comfortable and they have a good experience,” Smith said.
A self-bathing room is also available, outfitted with aprons, a grooming tub, grooming dryer and towels. Cost to use the self-bathing room is $15 and customers can use their own pet products or buy some in-store. There’s no time limit on how long a customer can use the self-bathing room and customers are asked to call ahead before bringing in their pet.
Smith hopes to expand her offerings in the next few months with dog and cat adoption opportunities, including adoption fairs on Sundays.
“We’re going to be working with local organizations that don’t have their own facilities, where they mostly do foster-to-adopt, so we can get as much exposure for animals as possible and try to reduce the amount of adoptable pets in the area,” she said.
Since opening, The Pet Pub has created a niche for itself as the only locally owned retailer that offers both grooming and shopping in one spot. However, while the convenience is appreciated, Smith said it’s the service and the customer experience that really puts The Pet Pub in a league of its own.
“I love seeing the people come in and being happy with the services we provide. When a dog walks out, they almost prance, because they feel so much better,” she said.