CLARKS SUMMIT – The purple Jeep with the black top parked in front of Stately Pet Supply on a recent Sunday afternoon was an indicator of positive business conditions at the shop, in the Talbots retail plaza at the corner of State and and West Grove streets. The Jeep belongs to the owner Rebecca Martino and replaced the one she disposed of as a way to fund the store’s opening.
“My dad has a clever way of putting it,” Martino said. “He said, ‘You sold your Jeep to buy a business. Now your business just bought you a Jeep.’”
Stately Pet Supply sells foods, treats, toys and related products. It opened in October 2014 and Martino said the store’s sales have more than doubled since then.
“Everything is just excellent,” she said. “Excellent.”
There is much competition in the pet-food segment of U.S. retailing. Dog and cat foods are sold by national pet-store chains, big-box retailers, grocery stores and even hardware stores.
The brands carried by Stately Pet Supply – including foods from Victor, Verus, Annamaet, Farmina and Fromm – are made by companies which cannot match the large marketing budgets of the big national brands. But Martino said they make up for it with their quality.
“Where we really can be very competitive is when we start to split hairs in how the food is made,” she said. “I want to know the farm that the chicken came from. I want to know the bone content left in the chicken. I want to know how it’s transported.”
More than half the store’s revenue comes from sales of food, offered in various formats, including canned, dry, freeze-dried, and dehydrated items. Raw foods are sold from the store’s freezers.
Martino, who grew up in Shavertown and now lives in Falls, began working as a registered nurse at the Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in 2008. She took an interest in dog foods and canine nutrition after one of her dogs suffered for years with what was later diagnosed as a food allergy.
“She almost lost her hearing because of ear infections,” Martino said.
Frustrated by what she felt was a lack of guidance in how to identify the cause of the food allergy, and how to find a proper food for the dog, Martino began educating herself about the different types of dog foods and the ways they are manufactured.
When her dog’s allergic problems vanished after a switch to a different food, Martino considered switching her career.
“I stood back and said there’s nobody specializing in food in this area,” she recalled. “It’s a great, supportive community. So, let’s do it. And if it all fails, I’ll go back to nursing.”
Martino had an idea for a different kind of pet-food store but she didn’t have a place to put it. She conducted a search for available commercial property.
The empty space at 515 S. State St., previously occupied by White’s Country Floral, seemed perfect. Since it was in a plaza with a parking lot, customers would not have to lug heavy bags of pet food back to the cars they had parallel-parked along State Street. And the property had a delivery dock in the back, where tall and heavy pallets of supplies could be offloaded with ease.
“If this space wasn’t available, I probably would not have gone forward with the store,” Martino said. Her mother and her sister help her run Stately Pet Supply and she recently hired her first employee.
When she was a full-time RN at Geisinger, Martino was in the “float pool” and was trained to work in different departments. She still works a shift at the hospital, on a per diem basis, at least once a month. It keeps her medical and her people skills sharp.
“Customer service is the common denominator,” she said. “In a hospital environment, you don’t see people on very good days. But here, you do.”
With its logo and font, designed for Martino by a family friend and used throughout the store, Stately Pet Supply looks like it could be a link in a chain. But there is only the single location – for now. Martino believes her take on the independent specialty pet supply industry would be a success in other retail centers in the area.
“I’m a walking, talking advertisement and education source,” she said. “I don’t sell birthday cakes and balloons for children. I don’t sell sneakers. I specialize in pet food.”