Feed Bag continues to grow
Pet Supply store moves in new directions after relocating to Mequon

News Graphic Staff

Aug. 11, 2015

Mark Haslam, owner of The Feed Bag Pet Supply Co., said the move from Grafton to Mequon allowed the business to expand its services.
Submitted photo

While it was a committee of humans that gave the The Feed Bag Pet Supply Co. the thumbs up as the Ozaukee Economic Development Small Business of the Year award, there are dozens, if not hundreds of other individuals that could have concurred except for one simple fact: They lack thumbs.

Pets – those of the paw and fin persuasion – and their humans have counted on The Feed Bag since its first Grafton location opened in 2003. Yet, at the same time, owner Mark Haslam and manager Connie Roller have been equally dependent on their customers to establish the business and keep it successful.

“We moved to Mequon in 2010, and when you change locations, you can really only expect to bring about 10 to 15 percent of your customer base with you, so essentially we were starting over as a brand-new business,” said Haslam. “But moving also gave us the opportunity to do some things we really never had the room to do in either of our Grafton locations.”

Megan Sprink, an associate at The Feed Bag, often provides pet-sitting help as owners shop in the store.
Submitted photo

The Feed Bag started out as one of the last remaining stores in Grafton’s Manchester Mall, and moved briefly to the Shopko plaza before making the jump to Mequon and the former Ethan Allen furniture gallery space. The store had already developed a positive reputation among pet owners for its emphasis on high-quality, better nutrition food for pets (many brands are made by Wisconsin manufacturers), full-service grooming and positive reinforcement dog training.

But what it really lacked was space. Though Haslam and Roller did not want to leave the Grafton community, they weren’t able to find a space that would allow them to expand into new product and service areas.

“We really wanted to offer dog aquatics, and we were actually the only pet store licensed in the state to have a dog-related swimming pool facility, and we couldn’t until we moved here,” said Haslam.

Their initial hope was that the fitness pool could provide a place for dogs who needed some form of therapeutic exercise, such as those who were carrying a few extra pounds, had arthritis or were recuperating from surgery. All activities are completed with a Feed Bag employee in the pool with the dog, and sometimes even in collaboration with a vet. It has since grown to become a place where puppies can learn to swim.

The Feed Bag now offers a variety of aquatic programs for dogs, including therapeutic exercise.  
Submitted photo

“People think that all dogs know how to swim, and many do, but it has a lot to do with the amount of webbing in their paws,” explained Haslam. “A Chihuahua really doesn’t have that webbing because they don’t need to; a Labrador does because they are a breed that spends time in water.”

Being able to expand the dog aquatics and the existing grooming business also meant that the store could continue expanding its staff, which is now around 21 people. Haslam credits his staff for a lot of the store’s continued success, and says that their knowledge comes from store training as well as their interest in seeking out additional education on their own.

“Hats off to them – not only do they know a lot about pets, but they also have a way of really making our customers smile,” he said. “They really get how to meet the needs of the pets.”

Roller agreed. “What’s great about our staff is that they all have their favorite type of pets – so really, if I don’t know the answer, for example, I can go to the ‘cat lady’ on staff or the fish people and get the answer that our customer needs,” she said.

Winning the OED Business of the Year Award in the small business category surprised and pleased Haslam.

“Having a successful business is just not doable without the right people, and we have the right people here,” he said. “It’s great to share this award with them.”

 

Feed Bag provides pet food for needy

MEQUON — For the past three years, The Feed Bag has also provided important assistance to pets and their owners who aren’t able to afford a bag of food from their shelves.

“We were looking at the growing number of rescue and shelter pets in the area and we were wondering what we could do to stop that from happening,” said Connie Roller, who added that the problem was that people could no longer afford to feed their pets.

Many of these pets were also older, and often not adoptable due to their age or temperament. She also found out that some were being separated from older owners, who had to make the decision to feed themselves or their pets.

“Essentially, these people were forced to split up their families because they lived alone with their pets, and nobody should ever be forced to make that decision,” she said. “When you’re in need of that kind of support, it’s a very stressful situation, and taking away a furry stress reliever just shouldn’t happen.”

The Feed Bag called Family Sharing and asked if the food pantry could use dog and cat food. At the same time, they approached a pet food manufacturer to see if it would be willing to let the program purchase pet food at a reduced cost.

“We had, on occasion, taken pet food to them and it really disappeared immediately because there was such a demand for it,” Roller said. “But with this program, we only provide top-quality food – no seconds or opened bags.”

The program subsists on donations and the occasional fundraiser to sustain itself. To date, it has delivered about 20,000 pounds of pet food to hungry pets through Ozaukee County via Family Sharing.

To donate to the program, contact the Feed Bag at 241-7061 or email Roller at croller@feedbagpetsupply.com.