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Saturday, Sep 23, 2023

The Briefing

A FIRST PERSON ACCOUNT OF RUNNING A SMALL BUSINESS Ira Lippman has been running Peggy Woods Pet Emporium in Burbank, which is named after its original proprietor, a Hollywood actress, since 1973. But things have changed a lot since then. Today, his biggest challenge has been competing with the pet superstores. He spoke with staff reporter Shelly Garcia about the ins and outs of supplying four-legged and winged friends. “We bought this pet store when I was in college in 1973. I was a zoology student in college. “We’ve probably decreased the variety of pets we sell because of laws restricting certain sales. We carry lots of domestic birds. We carry lots of exotic snakes and lizards, hand-raised bunnies and guinea pigs, tropical fish and goldfish, and puppies and kittens. “Less than 5 percent of pet stores carry puppies. In the San Fernando Valley, I think there’s just about half a dozen. It requires more work to carry puppies and kittens in terms of caring for them, guarantees, warrantees, just the legal requirements. “The biggest challenge of a professional independent store is the new big-box superstores that sell pet supplies. It became noticeable two to three years ago. We didn’t like it, but I think it’s just part of the evolving business world, and we’ve tried to change (to distinguish) ourselves from them. Most of the time our prices are more competitive, and there’s nobody (at the big-box stores) who knows anything about pets. “They’ve made us do a better job. We get closer to the customer to be able to answer questions and give advice. Many of our employees have 10 or 15 years of experience. “People have a lot of questions. ‘What do I do when my dog is scratching?’ ‘Why is my fish swimming funny?’ ‘My bird is puffed up. What should I do?’ ‘My hamster is not as active as it should be.’ These are not difficult questions, but you need to have someone who understands and is willing to engage in a dialog with the customer. We’ll take at least a half hour with customers. “The pets we sell are all from very reputable dealers. We have hand-raised birds that you can hold and play with. Most pet stores deal with large commercial breeders that don’t really take the time to have the hand-raised family pets, and it’s all the difference in the world. Especially bunnies. They’re used to being in somebody’s arms. That makes a whole difference when you’re bringing it home to a younger child.”

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