Local need keeps Schenectady pet center growing

When Marie DeBrocky opened her pet center on upper Union Street in 2009, she hoped she’d get enough

When Marie DeBrocky opened her pet center on upper Union Street in 2009, she hoped she’d get enough customers to survive.

“I thought we’d be a quaint little store,” she said.

She more than doubled her workforce in the first year. In year two, she nearly tripled the size of her store and kept hiring.

Now she’s built two additions, expanded into a second building next door, hired 14 employees and still she needs more.

For a woman who spent a career in lobbying before trying her hand at running a business, it was a wholly unexpected success.

“I never realized the need in this area,” DeBrocky said.

She opened the Head To Tail Pet Wellness Center because she’d always wanted a one-stop shop for grooming, day care and supplies. She was tired of driving her two golden retrievers from place to place.

Apparently, lots of other people were sick of that, too.

Her trainers now oversee 30 to 40 dogs a day in day care, where they are taught commands, checked for health problems and even encouraged to run on a treadmill on rainy days.

If she had more space, she said, she could add another 40 dogs to the program. “We’re out of space already in our new space. It’s a nice problem to have,” she said.

But she thinks it’s more than just the convenience that brings customers to her door.

When they try to buy products that she suspects will be ineffective, she warns them — and suggests other remedies to try first.

If they buy a harness, she advises them to bring their pets in to get fitted, rather than trying to figure out the harness at home.

If they come in search of special foods for pets that develop complicated allergies, she lets them return any bag of food that triggers the allergy. Sometimes they try six or more bags before they find the right mix.

“It does cost me a little bit, but the customer is happy,” she said. “I think it’s good customer service, to be honest. People appreciate that. They come to us first for repeat business.”

She’s gotten to be an expert in allergies — she can now usually pinpoint the right food after asking a battery of questions about the pet, she said.

And she no longer has to drop off her dogs at day care before heading to work.

“They come with me to work every day,” she said. Bella and Ruby greet customers at the door.

Categories: Business

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