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Pet project in Wauwatosa pays off for owners and animals alike

City Pet Market touts whole foods for all

Tycho, a regular customer, stopped by City Pet Market with his owner April 7.

Tycho, a regular customer, stopped by City Pet Market with his owner April 7. Photo By Mary Catanese

June 4, 2014

When four cat-loving radiologists learned about a new way to feed their pets, they did what some pet parents might only daydream about.

They started a natural pet food store.

"We went from taking care of people to taking of animals," said Shelly Harrigan, co-owner of City Pet Market with friends Gloria Ramos, Susan Sweeney and Sharon Dreckmann, who met through their work at Columbia St. Mary's hospitals in Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties.

It might never have happened if Harrigan hadn't been laid off.

After 18 years with Columbia St. Mary's in Milwaukee, Harrigan faced the fact that her department was to be eliminated. The downsizing left her adrift, until she found a job at a pet store in Bay View.

"I had this great career, but I looked forward to my minimum wage job," Harrigan said. "I would tell Susan how much I loved working at the pet store and how much I was learning and how it changed my pets' lives. Then, she changed her pet's diet."

A combination of grain-free canned food and raw food all but wiped out the allergies and urinary tract infections that had plagued Harrigan's 11-year-old orange tabby, Marshall. And Sonny, Harrigan's other 11-year-old orange tabby, also has seen improvement.

"They both have really soft coats, and they maintain a very healthy weight. Sonny is on a medication for hyperthyroidism, but otherwise they're not on any medications. It made a huge difference."

When it came time to stock their shelves, Harrigan and her partners focused on animal nutrition and then worked by a simple principle: "There really shouldn't be cat food, dog food and people food. We should all be eating whole foods," Harrigan said.

They also aimed to stock as many local products as possible, including American Natural Premium in Cedarburg, Stella & Chewy's in Milwaukee and Sam's Yams, a sweet potato dog treat company that started in Wauwatosa and is now based in Wild Rose.

"It's important for us to keep the dollars local. We want our local businesses to flourish," Harrigan said.

For Harrigan, selling natural pet food is about more than filling a niche in an evolving market.

"The idea is to keep pets out of the vets' office. You can change your pets' lives, even your own life, by eating well, eating whole foods," Harrigan said.

"We want convenience. We want to feed the dry food. We want to feed the kibble, but these commercial dog and cat food companies are sort of a fast food for pets. Science backs it up. My cats back that up," Harrigan said.

JUST THE FACTS

BUSINESS: City Pet Market, 1510 Underwood Ave.

WEB: www.citypetmarketwi.com

PHONE: (414) 763-0176

OWNER: Shelly Harrigan, Gloria Ramos, Susan Sweeney and Sharon Dreckmann

INCORPORATED: 2013

TYPE OF BUSINESS: natural pet food store

PEARLS OF WISDOM: "It's important for us to keep the dollars local. We want our local businesses to flourish."

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