Business Spotlight: Green Cottage Pets faces uncertain future
Green Cottage Pets, a holistic pet food and supply store that has been serving Gig Harbor’s furry four-legged friends and their humans for over two decades, is facing the possibility of shutting down by the end of April.
Tucked away in a quiet courtyard behind the storefront buildings on Pioneer Way and Harborview Drive, the cozy green and white shuttered cottage is situated off the beaten path.
Tom Moodie, Green Cottage’s 77-year-old owner, offers competitive prices. But he has been affected by the growth of online shopping for pet products.
Customers shifted towards online shopping when the pandemic hit, Moodie said. Many have continued to buy online.
“People are blind to the fact that there won’t be any brick and mortars,” said Moodie, exasperated by the hurdles and competition faced by small businesses today.
Growth of online pet stores
Moodie compares the state of his industry to a famous statement by investor Warren Buffet at a 2017 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting: “The department store is online now.”
Online pet product sales accounted for an estimated $30.7 billion in 2022, 36% of the overall pet spending. In-store sales remain the primary source of revenue, but it share of the whole is gradually decreasing.
No doubt, it’s a dog-eat-dog world for the small business owner. As if a global pandemic weren’t enough to muzzle the brick-and-mortar business, they face challenges from supply chain disruptions, inflation, and competition with mass merchandisers that have an advantage with high-volume sales.
Online pet retailer giant Chewy saw sales increase by more than 13% in 2022 over the previous year, to $2.71 billion. Petco also saw a bump of 4% to $1.58 billion. In 2018, Amazon also entered the $136 billion dollar industry with its own line of food, Wag.
“They’re just getting beat up. All these big stores, they want you to order 100 bags of food. So Tom doesn’t need 100 bags of food,” said Ron Cleghorn, a longtime customer of Green Cottage Pets. “I know Tom’s prices were cheaper than anyone else in the area. Even if you bought from Amazon (or) Chewy’s.”
Green Cottage history
Shopping for your furry family member in a physical store offers a unique and more personalized (as well as informative) experience, which goes beyond just the prices. “His knowledge of pet foods and everything else is why I go there,” Cleghorn said.
Having spent over 30 years as a certified chef and owning and managing restaurants earlier in his career, Moodie is no stranger to the food industry.
Despite acknowledging the stark contrast between the two worlds, Chef Tom dissects and scrutinizes the quality of ingredients in pet food. He is passionate about educating novice pet owners on distinguishing between pet food and pet feed.
“He’ll ask what type of breed you have, and he’ll know what type of food you should have. He doesn’t necessarily push a certain brand,” Cleghorn said about Moodie. “If he doesn’t have what you need, he will make a special order.”
Moodie founded Green Cottage Pets after becoming frustrated when seeking out appropriate pet food for his own furry friend. Through his exploration of the vast selection of pet foods in the market, Moodie decided to provide customers with products that he believed were fit for his own pets.
Hundreds of customer pet photos adorn the walls and ceiling at Green Cottage Pets, including Cleghorn’s dogs Odi and Echo. “On the door windows, there’s a picture of Echo as a puppy,” Cleghorn said about his longhaired shepherd. There’s even a framed photo of his late dog Thor, a 170-pound Leonberger.
Even if your puppy knocks over the treat bucket on the store counter, General Manager Anna Suplik doesn’t let it bother her. Instead, she simply smiles and dog whispers to your pet to sit for a treat.
“Dogs that come in there are like friends of the family,” Cleghorn said.
Near the store entrance, hanging from the white picket fence is a small sign that reads, “Dogs Welcome. People Tolerated.”
As a local resident, Cleghorn is worried about the future of the small business in Gig Harbor. We are “losing the feeling of (the) fishing village,” he sighs, adding, “Gig Harbor just lost their food store.” The Harbor General Store closed suddenly last month.
Operating expenses have increased for many businesses. Rents are rising for many downtown properties. “They’re pricing people out,” Cleghorn said.
The shelves are starting to empty at Green Cottage Pets. As a last resort to keep the store alive, some customers have taken it upon themselves to purchase extra bags of dog food.
“We’ve invested so much into the business over the years. Offered so many services,” says Moodie said.
Mark Twain said, “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.”
Green Cottage Pets
Address: 3028 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor WA 98335
Upcoming at Green Cottage Pets: Pet Dental Clinic, April 11
Go Fund Me: Longtime customer Julia Martin-Lombardi launched a GoFundMe campaign to support Green Cottage Pets. The campaign aims to raise $20,000 to support the small business. Find more information here.