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Partners cater to dog lovers in Lakewood Ranch

DOGPerfect set to open at The Green in Lakewood Ranch.

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Rob Emery, the co-owner with Chris Beyersdorff of the new DOGPerfect pet store in Lakewood Ranch, didn't have any trouble explaining what he expects from his future clientele.

"It is about the humanization of the pet now," he said. "People spend more time looking at what goes into their dog's food than their own."

With that in mind, Emery and Beyersdorff went about one of their most important chores, stocking their new store, which is scheduled to open Feb. 15.

"We are undergoing a lot of change in the nutritional aspects (of the dog food industry)," Beyersdorff said. "We need to understand how large companies brand and market their product, as opposed to what actually is in the bag."

Beyersdorff, who lives in Lakewood Ranch, and Emery, who lives in Longboat Key, put their employees through extensive training about canine nutrition. "We created a scorecard," Emery said. "We won't carry as many products, but we have vetted our products."

Then they started looking to stock their shelves.

They started with 35 dog brands, narrowed those to 15, then did a final cut to 12. After choosing the food they would offer, they worked on the store's design.

That design had to include a play area where people could let their dogs hang out while they shop and to socialize with other dogs and dog owners. It had to include a professional grooming area, and another self-wash area where people could bathe their dogs in a special tub for $10.

The actual shelves would display dog food by age categories as opposed to brands. Those who want puppy food or special diet food for seniors will be able to go right to those areas.

It all goes back to the philosophy of a couple of dog lovers who wanted a boutique feel in a 3,750 square foot store.

"Everything we have done is to make the customer experience better," Emery said. "Our inventory could have fit into half this size."

Both owners are from the suburbs of Detroit, Mich., with Emery making the move to Longboat Key six years ago and Beyersdorff moving to Lakewood Ranch six months ago. They have dabbled in various business ventures together, including a pet toy company, Smart Pet Love, which will supply items to DOGPerfect.

They were looking to open a business in the Lakewood Ranch area, but Emery said it was hard to find the right space. They loved Earth Fare's branding and its opening at The Green in Lakewood Ranch, and they thought it would be surrounded by innovative businesses and restaurants.

"We started this process 13 months ago," Emery said. "We wanted newer and we wanted to make a change in pet retail. People want much more of an experience now. We know there is competition and we see people doing stuff. We don't see people doing stuff well."

Both said it pays to be dog lovers. Emery, whose 17-year-old Jack Russell/Shih Tzu mix died in December, will be picking up a golden lab in a month. Beyersdorff has a German Shorthaired Pointer who is a high-energy dog who still gets along well with his wife, Sarah, and their twin 18-month-old daughters, Camille and Naomi.

Both said they will love working in Lakewood Ranch.

"It's been phenomenal," Beyersdorff said. "Everyone has been so friendly and supportive."

The store will have 10 employees and the partners plan to open a second store at the Square at University Town Center by April.


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