Pet Age spoke with Brad and Gina Ringlien, co-owners of The Pet Pad of Cary, North Carolina, to discuss their success in today’s ultra-competitive world.
Q Can you tell us the history of how and why you started The Pet Pad?
A (Brad) The Pet Pad is a brother-sister partnership. Gina has always had a lifelong fascination with animals, even dreaming of working at a zoo or owning her own pet store. I already had seven years of retail management experience and also wanted to run my own store. Our parents had the faith and funding to get the family project realized. We started with a small pet store franchise in 1988. In 2004, we left the franchise and became an independent store.
Q What are the benefits of a family-owned and operated pet store?
A (Brad) As brother and sister, we know each other very well and have faith that no matter what happens, our family stays strong. My wife, Diana, is the store manager, Gina’s kids, Sam and Lucy, help out, so it is a total family operation. Being a smaller store, we are able to pivot quickly with trends as well as give more personalized service to our customers.
Q How has the pet industry changed since when you started in December 1988?
A (Gina) It seemed to me that malls still had a pet store in them. There were small specialty fish shops around. Mom and Pop pet stores carried a variety of animals along with puppies and kittens. In our beginning, exotics meant green iguanas, anoles and snakes. The birds were mainly parakeets and finches with a few cockatiels. Now it’s super-sized national chains and a few smaller pet shops. Hardly anyone carries live animals anymore. The internet has changed shopping for not just us but the whole retail industry. We see some customers in our store scanning UPC codes and checking prices with our competition. Some of the keys to our success are the consistency in quality customer service and maintaining good animal husbandry standards for 28+ years. Due to our long business life, we have built a good reputation with the veterinarians in our area. They recommend us to their clients who are looking for a pet. Our satisfied customers’ word-of-mouth doesn’t hurt either.
Q There’s been an ongoing debate where pet breeders are under attack by animal activists. How do you overcome these challenges, and how do you ensure your customers that the animals you sell are healthy?
A (Brad) We only work with professional breeders who have the knowledge and experience necessary to provide us with happy and healthy puppies. To overcome the animal activist propaganda, we inform potential buyers of all the health and breed information we have on the specific pet they have selected. Each puppy gets a veterinary exam before sale. We don’t want any surprises. We offer a good health guarantee, a free veterinarian exam and a free bag of puppy food. Our puppies are all microchipped and current on vaccinations. We never push animals on customers, but rather help them think about the responsibilities they will encounter in owning a puppy.