Pet Age recently spoke with Blake Gipson, owner of Garden of the Paws in Colorado, to learn how he’s been able to flourish during these difficult times.
What determined the style behind the layout design for Garden of the Paws?
I wanted a “Colorado feel” with reclaimed wood accents and nice, wide aisles. I wanted bright and airy. I decided to install hydroponic garden towers throughout the store for people to pick fresh herbs from. We also have a very Zen feel with therapeutic, pet-friendly essential oils wafting through the store. When people come in, a common reaction is “Wow, this feels good!” This lets me know I’m on the right track for this to be a nice experience for my loyal customers.
How have you been able to overcome the pandemic?
We continue to thrive during the pandemic for two reasons. One, we follow and exceed CDC and PACFA protocols for cleanliness and employ a probiotic disinfectant solution using a fogging mechanism. The surfaces remain in “disinfectant mode” for up to five days after being fogged. Two, our customers are loyal and care about how we are doing. Their support has overwhelmed me with emotion when they ask at checkout, “How are you doing, Blake? We love you and all that you stand for. Keep up the great work. We are here for you.” It seriously does not get any better than that, and it reminds me that I have an outstanding team here at the Garden.
Why do you feel it’s important to have a strong store manager?
A strong store manager leads by example, sets expectations with staff, ensures staff members are properly trained on nutrition and supplements, plus we have regular educational meetings with each of our manufacturers on a regular basis. A strong store manager also knows what products are best for us to carry for our location and customers. Garden of the Paws has an amazing manager by the name of Chris Stahl. Chris has a sixth sense that incorporates all of the above along with a strong knowledge of our products and placement, which is key in keeping our merchandise moving.
How would you describe the grooming experience that you offer customers?
We consider the grooming experience a partnership with each of our customers. When the customer enters the store, they check-in at the back bar area and our groomers meet with them for a consultation. Notes are taken, hair length charts are shown to the customer so they decide the length of the coat they want. Then the dog or cat is given a treat or two and is taken to the “spa.” Special calming oils are diffused in the spa. Garden of the Paws takes a personal approach through the entire process—one pet at a time and there are no kennels. The groomer gives all of his/her attention to the pet on the table, calls the owner 15 minutes prior to finishing so the owner has the ability to be at the store and ready to pick up their pet. Our customers truly appreciate this entire experience.
What are some of the brands and products that have proved popular with your customers?
Nature’s Logic provide an array of nutritionally complete diets for dogs and cats along with outstanding supplemental products and treats. Zignature and its Essence dog food lines are especially helpful to us when it comes to dogs with stomach sensitivities and allergies. For cats, nothing tops Fussy Cat dry and canned foods. And we have an excellent line of raw diets in Tiki Cat Raw and OC Raw dog. Another outstanding brand for us is Open Farm. Humanely and sustainably sourced, the brand knows where every ingredient in its food comes from and can trace it to the exact farm of origin. These manufacturers invest their time and knowledge in helping us to pass along highlights of their complete dog and cat diets to our customers.
Our CBD products are also extremely popular and are manufactured locally. Our partners give regular educational seminars to our customers on all the many benefits of their CBD products.
What motivated you to get involved with local nonprofits?
It is an honor as a small business to have such a huge community backing so I want to return that same feel of support to our local non-profits and animal rescues. Since we are a pet supply business providing the best health/nutritional solutions for our customer’s pets, it just seems to go hand in hand to work with organizations in our community offering the same services helping those in need. Before the pandemic, we partnered with several different dog and cat rescues to host adoption events. We are also a large donation site for a local pet food bank.