When a customer walks into Joey’s Pet Outfitters in Williamston, they won’t be approached by a pushy salesman trying to sell them the most expensive dog food. Instead, they might see the owner or one of his employees sitting on the floor playing with a customer’s dog.
“The atmosphere is different than a big box store,” said owner Mark Marquardt. “It’s a warm, welcoming atmosphere of listening to what the customer is saying or requesting, and then trying to provide some answers and direction to reach the customer’s goals for their animals.”
Marquardt worked at Joey’s for two years before becoming the new owner on Jan. 1. The business — founded in 2005 — wasn’t on the market when he approached the owners about purchasing it, but he made an offer anyway.
“I had to ask for my own well-being; I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I didn’t,” Marquardt said. “I’ve always wanted to have [a business] like this. I did look into other opportunities in the pet industry, [but] I always came back to Joey’s.”
Marquardt was a zookeeper at Potter Park Zoo for 16 years before he started working at Joey’s. After nearly two decades at the zoo, he quit his job when he decided he “wanted to try something different.”
While Joey’s Pet Outfitters relies on profit like any other business, it strives to have satisfied and returning customers, and to bring “pets back to nature.”
It sells a variety of foods for dogs and cats, including raw, frozen raw and dehydrated raw food, which, “ideally, is the best thing for dogs and cats to eat.” However, it also understands not everyone can afford higher-quality organic food, so it offers lower-priced options as well.
“The business goal overall, [is] making sure that [customers] go home with the right product for their animals, and something that their pets will benefits from health-wise [and] enrichment wise,” Marquardt said. “If a customer is interested in one thing and there might be something better, we’d rather show them something better that might not even cost as much as the other thing.”
To ensure Joey’s Pet Outfitters is satisfying the customers and their pets, Marquardt has representatives from some of the brands come in and hold training sessions for him and his employees so they are knowledgeable about their products.
“Everyone here is educated about our products,” Marquardt said. “We’re not making up stuff. We try to help provide educated answers to questions for nutrition.”
Marquardt wants to ensure Joey’s Pet Outfitters is a welcoming environment for all of his employees.
“I try to be a good mentor for them and set a good example,” Marquardt said. “My employees are very important here and so are their pets.”
For one of his employees, Joey’s Pet Outfitters is the best job she has ever had.
“I absolutely love Joey’s,” said pet health specialist Krystal Witt. “Mark’s a great guy to work for.”
Since she started working at Joey’s Pet Outfitters in Nov. 2017, Witt has even experienced a miracle.
“We have a customer that’s been coming here for quite some time,” Witt said. “His dog had cancer and didn’t have very much time to live. We got him on our dog food, and it’s been, I think over two years, and the dog is still doing great. Just being able to see the difference, the changes in dogs — even my dog — it’s amazing to see the transformation.”
Williamston resident Matthew Woodard has been a customer at Joey’s Pet Outfitters for a few years, but frequented the store more after his French Bulldog, Goober, who is handicapped, had an accident and needed surgery.
“We try to get him the best nutrition, and supposedly this [food] is one of the best,” Woodard said. “I don’t think any other store in the area has this food.”
Williamston resident Denise Noble agreed.
“They have all different products that you can’t find in the box stores,” she said.
With a month of ownership under his belt, Marquardt is already planning for years down the road.
“I’d like to get some more services here,” Marquardt said. We are looking into having an e-commerce store, [and] perhaps a groomer, delivery service, boarding and trainers. All of these are on the to-do list. Some of them, we’ve been working on a little more heavily than others.
There’s a lot of opportunity here.”