• Stone’s Pet Shop: Love everybody who comes in

    Stone’s Pet Shop is a shining star in a somewhat clouded local retail economy. “We’re growing and thriving,” says Tom Radcliffe, who owns the store with his wife, Louise. “Every month is our best month. … We’re doing just fine.”

    How have they done it?

    Tom first credits part of his store’s success to “hiring excellent people.” For the Radcliffes, that person is Adriane Fells, whose specialty is birds and rabbits. “She is a great employee who’s helped us out a lot,” Tom says. “She allows us to be open on Sunday.”

    Second, he says, “We are extremely motivated. … We’re very passionate about what we do-we really like it.” Dovetailing along that line of thought is another aspect of the Radcliffes’ attitude, which Tom calls “total determination.” He notes that the business is the source of his and his wife’s livelihood, as well as the mortgage payment on their P.G. home.

    Financial and customer-awareness aspects make up the third leg of the success triangle for the Radcliffes. “Price always matters,” Tom says. He praises the loyal contingent of the store’s customers (especially those who supported the business when the couple first took over ownership in 2007). “We are finding a way to get competitive; getting our prices down,” he explains. Numerous competitors, including many of the “big box” national retailers, sell pet products. He reads industry periodicals, monitors product prices very carefully, and pursues options that help his to store to either meet or beat some of his more robust chain retailer competition. “We are ruthlessly price competitive,” he says. “Our No. 1 priority is keeping prices down.”

    According to Tom, product selection is another element that allows him to compete with the big box stores. The national chain retailers don’t generally carry the higher caliber (or quality) products such as dog food brands that are considered by those in the pet industry as some of the best available.

    The Radcliffes’ customer service philosophy?

    “Love everybody who comes in,” Tom says. “We love to get to know people and ask how [their pet] is doing.”

    The Radcliffes, who bought the store two years ago, are the third owners. Stone’s Pet Shop originally opened in the mid-’50s, and has remained at the same location for its entire history.

    Tom came to the entrepreneurial life after more than a decade of corporate management experience with Comp USA; his wife had actual working knowledge of the pet business, having been a pet store employee in England years ago. Buying Stone’s was “a test of ourselves,” Tom says. (The couple has several pets, including the “best dog in the world”-Ali, a German shepherd.)

    The store carries a spectrum of pet-related products, from hamster wheels to dog sweaters, from cat carriers to rabbit treats, from grooming products to aquarium and pond equipment and supplies (including free mosquito fish, to help with the county’s mosquito abatement program), as well as food for animals that range in size from birds to horses.  

    Also provided are numerous pet services, such as wing and nail clipping for feathered friends, grooming for dogs and cats, and boarding for small animals (birds and rabbits).

    Choosing to specialize in the rescue rather than retail of animals, the store makes birds, fish and small mammals such as gerbils and bunnies available for adoption. “We try to keep it interesting,” Tom says. “We mainly have things that people have donated.” The store also has developed a connection with the SPCA, which sometimes asks the Radcliffes if they’d like to find homes for its animals. The nonprofit once inquired if the couple would be interested in a monitor lizard – that measured a whopping four feet.

    “That’s where I had to draw the line,” Tom says with a laugh.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on May 20, 2009

    Topics: Current Edition, Features


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