Making room in a dog eat dog niche


AURORA | In a pet-supply industry dominated by big-box stores and national chains, Carl and Pam Holz don’t mind being the underdogs.

The couple in November opened Betty & Wilma’s Pet Supply at 15224 E. Hampden Ave. The small shop at the southwest corner of Hampden and South Chambers Road — named after the Holz’s dogs — is focusing on providing healthier food options for pets, as well as Colorado-made products.

Carl Holz said the couple fully understands that a huge chunk of the pet supply industry is taken up by just a few big names.

“We are not trying to compete with them,” he said.

But, the Holz’s said, they can find a niche as a friendly pet shop for the surrounding neighborhoods, something they said is lacking.

Pam Holz said they decided to launch the store last year after she became burned out by the corporate world. They were looking to start a business of their own and as pet lovers — in addition to Betty and Wilma, they have two cats, Cleo and Hootie — a pet supply store seemed like an ideal fit.

“I got to the point where I needed to find something I was passionate about, and we’re very passionate about animals,” she said.

Beyond selling pet supplies, the couple hopes to make Betty & Wilma’s a hub for animal lovers. Already, they’ve hosted three puppy adoptions at the store. They have guinea pig and rabbit adoptions planned, too.

Pam said the business is pretty focused now on dog and cat supplies, but they plan to branch out to include more items for smaller pets like guinea pigs and rabbits.

“It seems like with the apartments here people want more small animals,” she said. “We’re primarily dog and cat people ourselves, but we like all animals.”

According to the American Pet Products Association, a trade group representing the pet-product industry, pet supply sales in the United States topped $55 billion last year, up from $53 billion the year before and $43 billion in 2008.

The number of households with a pet is growing, too. According to APPA, 68 percent of U.S. households own a pet, up from 56 percent 25 years ago.

While the industry’s sales include a variety of expenses, from veterinary care to supplies to grooming, the biggest expenditure by far was pet food, which topped $21 billion last year, according to APPA.

At Betty & Wilma’s the focus when it comes to pet food is on healthier options, not the typical big-name brands that rely heavily on soy, wheat and other fillers.

Pam said the store won’t carry pet foods with soy, wheat or corn, something pet owners seem to be increasingly concerned about.

“People are getting more educated, they are looking at the back of their bags,” she said.

Particularly Colorado, which has one of the healthiest populations in the country, that focus on healthy pet food is especially important, she said.

“People are paying more attention to what they are putting in their own body, so they are paying more attention to what they put in their pets, too,” she said.

And Carl said the store’s namesakes, as well as Hootie and Cleo, have been more than happy to try out the food, and the pets approve.

“It’s a lot easier for us to sell something if we can say our dogs like it,” he said.


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