Long Leash On Life has been an outstanding partner to us over the years. We caught up with the owner, Norm Shrout, to see how they're navigating these weird and unusual times.
Tell us a bit about your store, how you got started, year founded, location etc.
Long Leash On Life opened in June 2006 as the first pet health food store in Albuquerque, NM that promoted alternative format, less processed pet diets. This genuine labor of love was in honor of our dogs, past and present who had been eating a variety of national brands that caused them to prematurely lose their vitality. Fortunately, a complete diet makeover that included primarily fresh food added years to our previous pup’s lives.
Our in-depth research on commercial pet food ingredients confirmed our suspicions. This firsthand knowledge and experience with the nutritional inadequacy of highly processed commercial food motivated us to take action. Fresh, real foods became both our pets’ mainstay and our store’s main focus. We never looked back.
Are there any key things that really set your store apart from others, specific qualities or values that Long Leash on Life is known for?
Our staff is trained to make product sales on the basis of a customer’s actual needs, not exclusively on padding the bottom line or reaching a sales quota. If a customer remains satisfied with their purchase for an indefinite period of time following the sale, then the sale was a success.
The products in our portfolio are carefully screened on everything from ingredients to the manufacturer’s customer support. Based on the unlimited number of brands on the market, there are many knocking on our door seeking inclusion in our limited inventory. Brands may eventually be rejected for ill-advised product alterations, for violations to our brand policy occur, or if retailer support is not consistent (lack of iMAP protection, for example). Only the best survive our brand requirements and quality standards.
With a strong media presence from national brands along with their potentially misleading information, we extra take time to educate customers about healthier products and let the results speak for themselves. We incorporate a very specific way of consulting about nutrition and our variety of products with which our customers seem to resonate.
Clearly, a global pandemic brings unimaginable horrors and suffering that no community can shield itself from. But are there any glimmers of light or small positives that you see emerging, or think might surface once the world comes out on the other side of this disaster?
With all the stresses brought about by COVID, we’ve seen a substantial increase in public kindness and the generous sharing of positive perspectives. Our neighborhood has uplifting chalk messages and painted rocks along sidewalks and paths. Our social media timeline is pleasantly packed with posts that promote hope, health and optimism. And we’ve done our part in sharing these positive vibes as much as possible. Despite the tragedy of so many small businesses failing during the pandemic, we have seen a noticeable uptick in both the professed and actual support of many types small businesses both locally and nationally.
It was shocking to witness the questionable business practices of mega corporations during the pandemic, putting profits ahead of the health of their employees and the public. The silver lining is the noticeable migration of savvy shoppers to more conscientious smaller, local brick and mortar establishments following the revelation of big box’s true colors.
Are there any new trends that you’ve noticed within your customer base, as a result of social distancing, such as homemade treat making, puzzles to occupy pups during work from home Zoom calls etc
Being an essential business, we’ve been fully concentrating on our exclusive Curbside Pick Up and online sales services. We put our customer’s needs as our highest priority. If there are any new trends, we’ve not had time to notice them.
In what key ways do you think having pets in our lives is especially important at a time like this? How have your own pets contributed to how you're coping?
It is widely known and scientifically authenticated that pets benefit humans in so many ways. The humanization of our pets was likely the result of this very phenomenon. With this pandemic, the role of pets has been elevated to that of therapist, comedian, and confidant as well as the usual statuses of fur child, playmate and companion. Perhaps, most importantly was the support they provided during lock down supplying endless unconditional love to help manage the varying stress levels for many pet parents.
Can you explain any key things that Long Leash On Life has done to pivot into a new way of operating, since the pandemic began and social distancing became the new normal?
As soon as COVID hit our state, we incorporated the recommended sanitation protocols, staff PPE, and of course, social distancing. Our next socially responsible pandemic business change was offering Curbside Pick Up service exclusively. Despite a resulting downturn in business, we continued this contact-free service for nearly two full months, purposely waiting until after the predicted COVID case resurgence following the opening of other businesses.
We also spent time innovating and implementing new customer service techniques to help offset the sales deficit, reduce stress caused by the pandemic, and increase a positive overall message to our customers.
Now that our store is open again, we further protected the public and our staff with sneeze guards, stanchions, enclosed credit card terminals, mandatory masks and extra sanitation precautions.
Last, we finalized our ecommerce site, allowing customers yet another way to safely purchase without direct human contact.
Any words of wisdom or inspiration you’d like to share with your local community or other retailers as they navigate the challenges of this uncertain time?
Doing your best to be congenial and understanding goes a long way. Many people with high-stress lifestyles are already pushed to their limits with this pandemic. You never know what someone else is going through, so we should always give them the benefit of the doubt.
Love thy neighbor. Love thy strangers. Love thy customers. Everyone is affected.
Turn off the news; the mainstream media usually has a misdirected focus and maybe attempting to exercise control of the public’s perspective.
Deflecting negative conversations into something more upbeat can go a long way to stop the pandemic from constantly being front-of-mind.
Do it now! If you’ve thought of doing nice things for people, make the time to get it done. Tomorrow is never a certainty and we always want to take advantage of these memorable and meaningful experiences.
Lucy Postins is founder and Chief Integrity Officer at The Honest Kitchen. She is a companion animal nutritionist who started The Honest Kitchen in her kitchen in 2002. She is passionate about advanced nutrition and holistic health including complementary modalities such as herbalism and homeopathy. Considered an expert in her field, Lucy frequently writes articles for local and national media, conducts radio interviews and educational spots, and occasionally holds educational seminars for pet owners on the importance of good nutrition. She also recently authored Dog Obsessed, a guide to a happier, healthier life for the pup you love.