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Pet Supplies Plus bullish on Waukegan market

11/15/12     Waukegan

Shelly Glover shakes Bonezz's paw after she John Packard gave their adopted pets bath Pet

11/15/12 Waukegan Shelly Glover shakes Bonezz's paw after she and John Packard gave their adopted pets a bath at Pet Supplies Plus in Waukegan on Thursday, Nov 15. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 2, 2013 6:02AM

WAUKEGAN —With its share of dogs and cats, Waukegan didn’t have a dedicated pet supply store of its own ­— at least not in recent memory — until Pet Supplies Plus came to town.

“The Waukegan market has been underserved. Therefore, it presented a unique opportunity to us,” said Dave Bolen, chief executive officer of the privately owned company based in Lavonia, Mich., a Detroit suburb.

The recent fire at a pet store in nearby Beach Park apparently also exacerbated the pent-up demand. Pet Supplies Plus opened its 10,280-square-foot store next to Target at the Yorkhouse Commons at the corner of Lewis Avenue and Yorkhouse Road, after extensively remodeling the vacant space.

Lines formed for its grand opening earlier this month, leading officials to be bullish about the store’s outlook, especially after new customers became repeat ones.

Mary Desimoz of Beach Park brought Nellie, her 11-year-old German shepherd mix, to the store the other day for a bath and grooming.

“I very much like the location. It is closer to home and has all the products you need. The staff is very helpful,” said the retired senior clinical research associate from Astellas Pharma Inc. in Deerfield.

John Gessert of Waukegan came in looking for an aquarium for his two-foot-long boa constrictor.

“I like the store a lot. It’s what we need in the area. Now, I don’t have to go to Gurnee to get what I want,” he said.

The store, bright and clean, offers natural pet food of various name brands, pet care products, equipment and, of course, grooming services. It also carries birds, fish and other pets.

“We want it to be a favorite neighborhood store, part of the routine shopping trip for people,” Bolen said, pointing to the shopping strip anchored on one end by a Jewel-Osco store.

Pet Supplies Plus, founded in 1991, is owned by Irving Place Capital, a private equity firm in New York, which bought out the business in 2010. The company, the third-largest in the industry, has 265 stores across the country, including 145 that are company-owned.

The remaining 145 are franchised. It has 15 stores in the Chicago area.

The Waukegan store, which employs 20 people, is its first entry into the Lake County market.

“Over time, we would like to have 30 to 40 stores in the Chicago area,” said Bolen, who has been in retail for 40 years and served as executive vice president of Petco before joining Pet Supplies Plus 1½ years ago.

As a private company, he declined to mention its sales or growth rates. He alluded to the company’s upward momentum when he said, “Sixty-two percent of the American households own a pet. Even with the recession, pet parents are increasingly focused on giving their pets products with greater nutrition.”

The natural pet food carried in the store, he pointed out, does not contain chemicallysynthetic additives, artificial preservatives or any fillers or animal by-products. The store also has a section featuring USA-made products.

“Our research shows customers are increasingly interested in products made in America,” he said, mentioning among them rawhide and chews.

Endeavoring to be community-minded and therefore benefiting itself as well, the company said the Waukegan store will partner with local rescue organizations to sponsor cat and dog adoptions.

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