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Four Paws Pet Grocery & Boutique

Locally-owned and operated pet supply store offering premium quality dog and cat food, and a carefully curated selection of pet supplies

A discussion with Vincent Denis & Christine Leman, Co-owners

Why did you choose Sidney as the location for your business?

“We really liked Sidney right off the bat. When we were here looking for a home we went to the market and found Sidney to be clean, comfortable, friendly, walkable and full of quaint little shops which made it an easy decision to become a part of that. On paper, it didn’t really make sense with so many other pet shops nearby but we found a great location, believed in ourselves and decided to roll the dice. All the metrics both social and financial pointed to Sidney being a great community to start our business in. We thought we would garner more tourist traffic and this hasn’t proven to be true and it has not mattered. This is partly due to our commercial location, however, we needed the parking accessibility that this location provides us with for customers carrying big bags of dog food.”

How would you describe your experience in the Sidney community?

“The community has been super welcoming. It is a two-way relationship. If you put forward a good face, nice place to shop and good products you get cheerful people walking through your door. The business community has been truly wonderful and it has been fun getting to know the lovely people in Sidney. It has also been very helpful being a part of the BIA and the Chamber of Commerce for the opportunity to connect with others.”

What has been the most rewarding aspect of running your business so far?

“Getting to increase our knowledge of the pet industry. One of the things we do all day is problem solve, something that online stores can’t do. There are people who come in with specific needs and problems they need help with such as a dog is allergic to a particular ingredient or a dog reacting a certain way to a toy. Helping people fix those problems has been a valuable learning experience and is very fulfilling. Sometimes we can’t provide them with the answer and it’s worthwhile to point them in the direction of a place to best meet their needs because people will say a genuine thank you even though we haven’t sold them anything. This helps to create community and goodwill.”

If you could give one piece of advice to a new entrepreneur what would it be?

“Be prepared to work hard for a good amount of time. The health of your business is directly impacted by how much you work there at the beginning. You have to be there in retail and be in front of your business. When customers come in they want to put a face to the small business and it helps to sell your business, you are selling yourself and your expertise. People want to talk to you and you have to listen to them too and what they want. We had a vision in mind for our store that we have tweaked along the way because customers come in and tell you what they want when they ask for something and we go “oh we don’t have that” or “I know somewhere else you can find that”. Once you get a couple of these requests you start to think about finding room for that product line or particular thing. You have to evolve your thinking as your customer base tells you what they want and you have to listen to them. Your customers are your bosses, they have the right to pay you or not.”

What are the core values of your business?

“Honesty and integrity above all. Of course, we want customers to buy something but if we can’t help a customer then we want to help them find someone who can. In essence, we are genuinely in the service industry. We listen to customers, are honest with them, and don’t overcharge. We respect what the customer needs and do not apply pressure to make sales. When customers have reacted poorly to the price of something we have pulled them aside and shown them the price margins since our integrity with customers is very important to us. We have also chosen not to stock products that harm animals such as we are a positive reinforcement training store only and all our product lines support that. Along with this we also do not carry products that contain artificial dye or colour.”

What are your short term and long term goals as a business owner?

“Our short term goals are to finish our ongoing renovation as we have lighting and reorganizing to complete. We also need to look at our staffing needs holistically from training to the work itself which will make us more successful and give us a break as we head into our fifth year. We have terrific people so far and just need a few more people added to the team. In the long term, we would like to grow more by expanding our current store, however, the main focus is to improve our current store. After we finish this growth phase we are looking forward to events we can hold and attend within the community and meeting new people.”