Animal Instincts

Walk into the door of Kriser’s and you get it: this ain’t no Petco. First off, there’s a vibe–a canine nirvana. “I wanted to create a soothing, calm shopping environment,” says owner Brad Kriser.

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    People
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    Linda Grasso

Walk into the door of Kriser’s and you get it: this ain’t no Petco. First off, there’s a vibe–a canine nirvana. “I wanted to create a soothing, calm shopping environment,” says owner Brad Kriser. Aisles are wide to accommodate wide leash stances, and warm wood tones are cleverly accented with green and purple. “Treat” samples are there for the asking.

The biggest point of differentiation here, however, is the fare. “I’ve selected everything and can say it’s all completely natural,” Kriser notes. The retailer avoids items with by-products like corn, wheat and soy. Instead, the store stocks edibles high in protein, low in carbs, and free of chemicals, additives and preservatives. With specially trained salespeople to field questions and design custom menus, it’s no surprise Kriser’s is often described as “the Whole Foods for pets.”

“For many of us, pets are like family. It only makes sense to use the same smart, progressive approach we’re all taking to nutrition for our animals,” Kriser explains.

Shelves are adorned with whimsical quotes like: “We speak dog. We speak cat. And it just so happens we speak gerbil too.” They’re lined with high-end, dried dog food brands you’ve probably never heard of, like Origen and Fromm. The names aren’t the only thing that’s new. These dried varieties have ingredients like blueberries and garbanzo beans. A frozen foods section is packed with raw meat paddies including duck and goose.

Then, there’s the really unusual stuff. Nummy Tum Tum Pure Pumpkin is “great for upset stomachs.” Freeze-dried duck hearts are “wildly popular,” as are cow femur bones, “slow-cooked so they don’t splinter.”

As you probably guessed, all this health consciousness comes at a premium. “You pay a bit more, but you use less. When you feed dogs those by-product-laden foods, you’re basically feeding them fillers. Our food is nutrient-dense, so dogs feel full with less,” Kriser says.
With seven stores in Chicago, the chain recently expanded west (there’s also a Valencia store). Kriser uprooted his family to the Valley so he could run the new outlets—at a time when the economy is in a lull. “People are willing to cut back and do without certain things for themselves. But when it comes to their pets, now that’s a different story.”

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