Pet Age visited John Hershey, owner of Hershey Pet Food Company in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, and discovered how he caters to the dietary needs of his customers’ pets.
Q: What inspired you to open a pet shop, and how has your background helped you succeed?
A: I’ve always had a passion for dogs. They’ve mastered love and loyalty— two qualities humans often struggle with. My background includes 10+ years of hospital pharmacy experience and management of holistic pet retail. In 2015, my wife, Brandy, and I opened Hershey Pet Food Company. Our goal was to provide truth and an honest approach to campaigns of misinformation and poor nutrition widely available to customers, to give them straightforward, honest answers to their questions and provide the best in what was available to us.
Q: What is your philosophy regarding pet food?
A: Our philosophy regarding pet food is “simple”—it’s nutrition supplied through whole foods and the necessary, essential vitamins and minerals. It’s how nature intended our animals to eat to stay healthy. Science has shown that pets fed better nutrition have little to no need for medication.
Q: What food categories and brands are your biggest sellers?
A: We carry what we consider, through our own independent research, the best natural foods we can find. We specialize in and are big advocates of a raw diet. Answers Pet Foods has done extremely well with our customers. The science and research used in those diets are unmatched. We also do well with kibble brands from Champion Petfoods and Fromm.
Q: How do you work with the pet food brands that you carry to strengthen your knowledge of their products?
A: Any products that make it onto our store shelves have been thoroughly researched to ensure our level of quality. I try to build a relationship with the vendors of the products carried by the store. It is important to me that their promise to the customers is upheld. My store represents that promise. I feel the vendors have an obligation to the customers as well. Our goal is to help the customer care for their pet to the best of our ability. I spent much of my time educating myself in order to meet that standard I set for my customers.
Q: What items do you carry that set you apart from your competition?
A: I believe what sets my store apart from other competing stores is customer interaction. For me, it’s about customers getting the straight answers they’ve been asking for. I believe the science is showing how important a diet that aligns with their ancestors is. Again, why I feel strongly that Answers Pet Food is creating a new level of nutrition now given much needed attention. I also think the raw segment in general is a great push in the right direction. My own dog, Lily, is on an Answers raw diet, and she loves it.
Q: How do you build a relationship with your customers?
A: I build my relationships with customers by staying engaged with them. I am always trying to help them. I treat them how I would prefer to be treated if my dog was in need of help. Be who they can trust when it comes to their pet—and a smile goes a long way, too.