MAKING PET FOOD SHOPPING EASY AGAIN

Kathleen Fox-Smith chats with a customer on opening day of her Little Silver shop last Friday. (Click to enlarge)

By DANIELLE TEPPER

Home Depot, Costco, PetSmart: With their enormous inventories, the big-box-stores that transformed American retailing in the 1990s destroyed innumerable small, local businesses along the way. They also forced customers to travel farther for the privilege of finding what they need at unbeatable prices.

Kathleen Fox-Smith has chafed against the tradeoff for years.

“I have three dogs, and the nearest major pet store is PetSmart on Route 36″ in Eatontown, says the Little Silver resident. “It’s not that far, but it’s just a nuisance to go over there.”

So, answering a deep desire to own an animal-related business and her belief that area pet owners are ready to again shop locally, Fox-Smith has decided to take on the giants in her own, small way.

Last Friday, Fox-Smith debuted a new shop: Pet’s General Store, in the A&P Plaza on Prospect Avenue, offering food, treats, toys and other accessories for dogs, cats, and birds.

Fox-Smith spent eight years at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital, first as a pharmacy tech and later as head of the purchasing department, the latter of which she said gave her valuable inventory management experience needed to run the store.

After she left RBVH in 2006, she managed an interior design office up until last year. But during the interim, she ached to return to a job that allowed her to work, at least in some capacity, with animals, she said.

When the 1,200 square-foot space that had been the home of the Peppermint Tree, a specialty children’s clothing store, became available, “I decided to go for it,” she told redbankgreen.

While this is her first business venture, Fox-Smith said she is not intimidated.

“The unknown makes you a little nervous, but I’ve always had pets, always loved them, so I’m hoping to become a reliable place for pet owners,” she said.

Fox-Smith plans to carry some products that PetSmart doesn’t, to set her store apart. “If someone comes in and is looking for a brand of food we don’t carry, if I can get it, I’ll get it,” she said.

But she’ll also stock brands that the giants carry, because “the whole purpose here is to help people not have to make that trip,” she said.

After she gets settled in and has the place running smoothly, Fox-Smith would like to see the store become involved with animal rescue efforts.

“If I won the lottery, I would open a rescue,” she said. “If we could do something with that here, maybe help the Humane Society somehow, I would really love to do that.”

Pets General Store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday; it’s closed on Monday.