At Just Dog People in Garner, N.C., superior service matters, and the keeping the staff up-to-date on industry information is often challenging, says Jason Ast, who co-owns the store with his wife Katie Ast. The two-year old brick-and-mortar store offers self-service dog wash; full-service grooming; Drop and Shop service where customers’ dogs are bathed in an hour or less; drop-in nail trimming, nail grinding, anal expression and ear cleaning; group training classes: beginner, intermediate and tricks; custom harness fitting section; food consultations; and allergy testing.
Pet Product News: What are the top-selling products in your store right now?
Jason Ast: In our store, we sell a ton of West Paw and Benebone products. So many of our clients are looking for tough toy options, as well as toys that help “distract” dogs from destructive behavior and/or boredom.
What are your favorite products right now?
Ast: We’ve seen great results in the new DOOG (Dog Owners Outdoor Gear) belts and bags for dog owners. They have great quality as well as great color and design options—and all at a great price.
What industry trends have you been keeping your eye on most closely?
Ast: We’ve really had our eye on how many manufacturers have backed the smaller retail stores since PetSmart’s acquisition of Chewy. MAP pricing has helped level the playing field for stores like us, as well as great companies like Tuffy’s, Champion Petfoods and Fromm showing support for us.
What business challenge are you currently in the process of tackling?
Ast: Keeping our staff trained and up-to-date is an ongoing challenge for us. We don’t want, and will not hire, “wallflowers.” Our approach to business is: service first. That means no 17-year-olds on their phone at the register. We want to work with people who believe in our ethos, “Give the customer a better experience than they expect,” which is Just Dog People’s rule No. 1. Rule No. 2 is “Make it right for the customer.”
We believe in community, small business, hiring young people and giving them experience to help them in their future lives, and, most important, we believe in relationships over transactions.
What business goal are you hoping to achieve this year?
Ast: We are very excited about our new harness fitting service and food/allergy consultancy.