Family-owned pet store in tax crisis relies on esprit of local economy

Eulene Robley runs the pet grooming operation at Pet Care Warehouse in Chattanooga. The owners said Thursday that an outpouring of customer support allowed for a bank deposit big enough to settle the immediate claims of the state.

A family pet store in Chattanooga faced with state revenue department threat of closure on Friday for back taxes has been thronged the past two days by loyal customers happy to help get its Nashville ledgerbooks back into the green.

Pet Care Warehouse in Hixson on Tuesday made a plea on Facebook friends indicating it is being strong-armed by Tennessee state government authorities.

“We have been given pretty much an ultimatum by the state to have so much of our taxes paid up by this Thursday or they said there was no reason for us to show to work Friday.”

“We have completely depleted any reserves we had and even with the sluggish projection of the next few days’ sales,” the family said on Facebook, “we will still wind up a little short. If, over the course of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning, we should be able to obtain enough funds through sales by the deadline (Thursday at 2pm — to give us time to get it downtown), we will be open this weekend and hopefully for another 19 years!”

Supportive customers flock in to help in crisis

How have customers responded to Andria Dobson’s plea? “Phenomenally. I was overwhelmed, as were the employees. We just were completely shocked at the amount of support, for the amount of prayers offered, which can do more than you know, and the financial support has just been overwhelming.” Checkout lines have run six people deep, she says.

Many of her store’s customers have  sense of loyalty to her business. “We have many people who are conscientious about the little guys versus the big mass marketers and the chains. They know that that keeps a healthy economy, competition, and they know the little guys are there. And we try to make a difference by caring for the customer. A lot of them have become our friends. A lot of of them are more than just a customer.”

Service is a special angle that local economy players offer, again because of personal relationships. “They take care of us; we do our best to take care of them,” Mrs. Dobson says. The business’s staff is well trained so its members can provide advice and care for pet owners.

The business was started by 19 years ago by her parents, Jerry and Sharon Moss. All but one of the siblings have worked in the store. Today, two are on the payroll full time, two part-time.

Sagging economy

Nearby road construction in 2010 hurt business and Pet Care fell behind, “and we are on payment plans and such to make that back. We did slip  behind because the economy is so slow right now. We’ve got skyrocketing gas prices, and everyone is on such a strict budget, that if they don’t have extra cash, the pets — extras, the treats, the toys, get cut out. So it hurts.”

Mrs. Dobson’s mother, Sharon Moss, appears from the back of the warehouse. She makes a succinct argument for local economy vs. national economy.

Buying local brings a sense of community, she says. “Because this is where they live, and it builds into their economy, versus the franchises that come and go and they really don’t care. The family business really tries to market towards the immediate area and the money goes back into the local market. The profit is kept here. You kinda get to know ’em. You become family with them.”

No chain could have generated the strong response to a plea such as that made by Pet Care Warehouse, Mrs. Moss says. Within a mile of her shop are two mass marketers, Pet Smart and Petco. She says the dollar doesn’t control in her business, but the relationship between provider and customer. Some shoppers at the store have been doing it for nearly two decades, she says.

Sharon Moss and nine of her 10 children work or have worked at the Pet Care Warehouse in Hixson. The store is asking customers to help it get through a tax crisis. In red in the background is the store’s general manager, her daughter Andrea Dobson.