Independent Pet Food Stores are nothing like the big box stores. TruthaboutPetFood.com recently began adding listings of Independent Pet Food Stores to provide pet owners a valuable resource to finding safe and healthy pet foods. I wanted pet owners to sort of ‘meet’ these people, the store owners, to show you how important these pet loving businesses can be a trusted friend in protecting your pet. This week, meet Jo Bighouse of Midas Touch.
Midas Touch, located in Berryville, VA, offers products for health conscious pets and their people. The brief business description of Midas Touch states…“A unique health food store for people and their pets. Our pet products include frozen raw and dehydrated foods, healthy treats, natural grooming supplies, premium supplements, homeopathic remedies and non-toxic USA-made toys. Our knowledgeable staff can help you make informed choices for your pet’s optimal health.”
And now for the tough questions…I’ve sent all of the Independent Pet Food Store Owners a list of questions; each will be asked the same. I’m sure you’ll see very quickly, by their answers, the benefits of purchasing your pet foods from these business owners.
How/why did you open a pet food store? (Is there a personal story of a pet food harming one of your own pets?…Motivations of you starting this business?)
My golden retriever’s cancer in 1998 was the catalyst for my change to a natural, non-toxic lifestyle and improved nutrition for my pets. While researching holistic alternatives for Missy’s cancer treatment I learned quite a bit about the value of real food and minimizing exposure to toxins. Missy lived 10 months after her initial diagnosis, 6 months longer than the vet expected. Midas Touch Naturally Healthy Pets, LLC began in 1999 in Missy’s memory. Initially this was a home-based business and my focus was on seminars and workshops to enable pet owners to make informed choices about the care of their cats and dogs. I later expanded to a cash and carry store at my home that was open on weekends while I worked at a full time job. In 2007 I moved into a storefront in Berryville, Virginia and quit my “day job.” With the opening of the storefront the name was changed to Midas Touch and our inventory now includes health food for people in addition to pets. Half of the store is devoted to pets and half is for people.
What do you see as the difference between your store and a Big Box Pet Store?
Personal knowledge I have gained through the care of my own pets that I am able to share with customers. What advantages to you provide to Pet Owners? I thoroughly research each product before putting it on my shelves. I will not sell something just because it has a high profit margin – the quality of the product is more important to me. In fact, I have sent your questionnaire to each of my pet food manufacturers and have posted the responses on my web site. Customers can trust that I will continually research and review to be sure what they buy from me will be healthy for their pets. For example, when I heard about the difficulties Evangers was having at their plant earlier this year I contacted them. Because I was not satisfied with their response I pulled all Evangers products from my shelves. I then contacted each of my suppliers to find out if any of their products were canned at the Evangers facility. When I discovered the “made in USA” Weruva products were, I also pulled those products. None of those will be sold at my store again.
What are some of the frustrations you have about the (mis)information your customers have been exposed to about pet food and nutrition?
Through marketing strategies most customers are dupped into believing the pictures of fresh food on the package and a happy dog in the picture are an indication of a good food. A classic is the Beneful ad campaign. Many people come into my store looking for a shampoo or topcial ointment to make their dog stop scratching. Instead of selling them something to supress the symptoms I try to help them find the cause so my first question is always, “what does your dog eat?” I was shocked at the number of people who answered “Beneful.” None of them every looked at the ingredients – they were only looking at the claims on the front of the bag. I wrote an article for my web site that compares the ingredients of Beneful to Evo with an explanation of why dogs shouldn’t eat corn – just look at their teeth.
The myth that pets shouldn’t eat people food and should always consume the same processed food their entire life also frustrates me. When I encourage people to pick three of our foods and rotate through them, and to add healthy food from their kitchen they are always surprised. My theory is that allergies and digestive disorders are caused by feeding the same processed food all the time – which is the opposite of what consumers are being told by the pet food industry.
How much of your job is nutritional education and counseling? Do you offer seminars or other continuing education opportunities through your store? I no longer have the space for seminars so I have not been able to continue that service. But I spend most of my time talking to customers about the value of nutrition, limited vaccinations, and non-toxic household products. I will make recommendations and often discourage them from purchasing products from me that I don’t think are appropriate. Often just a change in food is all they need. I also send out a weekly newsletter which includes topics on nutrition, humane training, non-toxic alternatives to pest control, and natural cleaning products. Some of the newsletters are on my web site.
Do you have some success stories to share about how good nutrition has helped customers to eliminate health problems?
One customer had a cat with severe allergies. She excessively groomed herself to the point of pulling out her hair. Several areas were inflammed and infected. She was being treated by a vet and had gone through several courses of steroids and antibiotics. I suggested that she switch to a raw food diet with the addition of a probiotic/enzyme combination and a fish oil supplement. Within a few weeks the cat stopped scratching and the hair was growing back. Two years later she has not had any more steroids or antibiotics and she is a healthy cat. I have recieved positive feedback from many customers whose pet’s health problems cleared up after switching to a better quality food. Most of my customer base are a result of referrals from these success stories. I believe the first course of action in any health issue should be healthy, real food.
How did you choose your foods, or what defines foods that you will agree to carry, and what makes you decide against a certain food? Would you be willing to eliminate a certain popular food if something changed about it that you didn’t like? What sort of thing would that be that would make you do this? How would you handle it with your customers?
My main criteria is wheat and corn free, no byproducts, not made in China. I value the annual pet food review published by The Whole Dog Journal and consider their opinion when making a choice. I did eliminate Evangers after finding out about their difficulties. That was my most popular canned food – the best seller by far. When I pulled them from the shelf I sent a newsletter to my customers and detailed everything that led to my decision. I told them about the contact I had with Evangers, USDA, and my distributors. The email correspondence was published in the newsletter (which is still available on my web site). The same information was printed onto a poster that I hung in the area where the Evangers cans had been. Customers were disappointed. I heard a lot of “But my dog loves that food” “What am I going to do now?” So we walked through the store for them to see their other options. Although people were disappointed, they appreciated that fact that I was looking out for them. Many customers told me they forwarded my newsletters to friends who had not heard about the problem.
Have any of your foods been affected by a recall? Of so, how did you handle it? None have been involved in a recall.
How do you go about choosing and training your employees? I have just two part time employees – my neighbor and my daughter. Both share my philosophies and will take time with the customers to educate instead of just trying to sell products.
How do you stay educated about food and news in the industry, and what are some of the challenges to this?
Constantly reading – books, magazines, newsletters. Consulting with a vet that I trust. The biggest challenge is the contradictory information I come across. For example, garlic and avocados are in many of the foods but they are listed on the ASPCA poison control web site as toxic. It is also often difficult to get past the hype when talking to pet food reps. I want just the facts to make a decision – I don’t like hyperbole.
Why should a pet owner purchase their products from your store? (Anything other that above.)
They will not be encouraged to purchase anything that isn’t right for their pet. They can come in and I will gladly talk to them for an hour about options for their pets. And if they leave without buying anything, that is ok. Our first priority is to help them make informed decisions. In fact, I have suggested that some customers not purchase what they brought to the counter for checkout. One that comes to mind is a young lady who was looking for an ointment for her dog. When I looked at the affected area I didn’t think an oinment was the right choice so I suggested she take him to the vet. She came back later and thanked me for the recommendation – her dog had a severe infection which would have gotten worse without medical intervention.
Did I miss anything?
Check out my web site: www.midastouchhealth.com
You’ll meet more Independent Pet Food Store Owners each week; please support these businesses!
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
Is your dog or cat eating risk ingredients? Chinese imports? Petsumer Report tells the ‘rest of the story’ on over 2500 cat foods, dog foods, and pet treats. 30 Day Satisfaction Guarantee. www.PetsumerReport.com
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