Q How would you describe your love for pets?
A I grew up on my family’s small working farm, where my daily chores included taking care of chickens, Tennessee walking horses, a pony, pigeons and Tippy, our family collie. Throughout my life, I’ve always had at least one pet in the house, and over the years, that has included tropical fish, hamsters, one snake, two cockatiels, several dogs and multiple cats. The most memorable was Pat, a black-and-white springer spaniel that came to work with me every day for almost 14 years. I couldn’t imagine being without their comfort and warmth. At home, my wife and I have a large tabby cat named Max, and a new kitten, also a tabby, named Pete. At work, we have three rescue cats—Cricket, Jack and Pearl.
Q When you hear the phrase “do it right” what does it mean to you?
A When my wife and I moved to Atlanta with our infant son in 1975, there were several existing tropical fish wholesalers. I knew that if we wanted to be successful, we would have to “do it right” from the start. That meant offering the best quality and selection, along with competitive prices and service that was second to none. That directive has carried over into everything we do today.
Q What part of running Southeast Pet do you enjoy the most?
A There are two things that I enjoy the most about coming to work at Southeast Pet every day. The first has been the ability to work with my son, Ryan Judge—it’s been rewarding to watch him mature and take over the leadership role. The second is the interaction with the Southeast Pet team member owners. We all have a common goal: to make sure that doing business with Southeast Pet is a great experience, whether you’re a retailer or a supplier.
Q What decision that you made during your career is the one that fills you with pride?
A The decision to sell 100 percent of Southeast Pet to the team members and not to one of the large roll-ups. With all of the uncertainty generated by the recent wave of distributor acquisitions, the goal was to provide assurances to our team members, our retailers and our suppliers that Southeast Pet would remain independent.
Q What is one thing most people in the pet industry don’t know about you?
A Growing up, we lived along the Mississippi River. I started my first business at 14 years old, selling live bait from the basement of a sporting goods store. Days started at 4:30 a.m., a time at which I still wake up every day and head to work.