By Dylan Moroses
After her dog Artemis became sick, Pennye Jones-Napier started an eco-friendly natural pet food chain, Big Bad Woof Inc., which originated in Washington, D.C.
“We had a hard time trying to feed her properly and take care of her so I started going back to older remedies that I had studied in nutrition and herbalism when I was younger to help her work through her diabetes,” said Jones-Napier, the co-owner of the store.
She was shocked to learn about the ingredients of some popular dog foods Artemis was eating. “I thought, ‘This is just crazy’. Not only are we developing obesity in people, we’re developing obesity in our pets too.”
Jones-Napier, along with her partner Julie Paez, saw so much success in the remedies and diet change they put Artemis on that they saw it as an opportunity to create a store.
“It was so successful that my partner and I thought we could make this into a store,” Jones-Napier said. “And if we were going to do this as a store, how could we do it effectively so we could build the business and work towards ways to support animal rescue and welfare across the community.”
The products they promote and carry are ones they use in their personal lives. “For example, clean, green cleaning products are things that we believe in and make sure to carry in our stores,” Paez said.
The Big Bad Woof store in Hyattsville served as a business model for the company’s future locations. The two stores, located in Hyattsville and Washington, D.C. provide a different experience and atmosphere than “big-box companies” like Petco and Petsmart, according to Jones-Napier.
Ramon Rodriguez, a frequent customer of the Big Bad Woof and owner of pit-bulls, explains the difference in service.
“It’s a lot different than other pet stores. These people here are much more familiar with the products and what to do with your dog,” said Rodriguez. “I’ve already done the research on prices and the difference isn’t that much more expensive than Petco or Petsmart.”
“The person is going to get a lot more individualized service in the store,” she said. “You’re going to have a staff person that’s fairly knowledgeable when you ask questions. We actually have a higher customer-staff ratio than you would find in bigger pet stores.”
Big Bad Woof carries pet foods and supplies without excess ingredients and additives, which can be harmful to pets. The pet food is naturally grown and comparable in price to popular dog food brands like Kibbles & Bits and Purina.
“I feel much more comfortable with the foods here, and the overall atmosphere is much more friendly, so I feel the prices are reflective of the better products and the better service,” said Rodriguez.
The Hyattsville location has a selection of pet products and food for the huge small dog community in the area. “This was a surprise to us,” she said. “We have a number of small dog products and different small dog foods at this location that may not be at others.”
Paez and Jones-Napier have created a partnership that has allowed their business locations to grow, and hopefully expand to other locations, pending approval from the state of Maryland. They are planning to open a location in the Eastern Shore area. “Unfortunately, we live in and by two of the most regulated states in terms of franchises — Maryland and Virginia. So it’s been a hassle trying to get approval to open a new location,” Paez said.
The value, customer and community service that the Big Bad Woof stands for in Hyattsville and its other locations is what Jones-Napier feels brings them success. “We believe that if you offer a good price successfully then customers will be loyal to you,” she said. “Breeding loyalty is how we have come successful.”