Meet Your Merchant: Tahoe’s Pet Station branches continue upward growth
Special to the Bonanza
What: Pet Station
Location: 910 Tahoe Blvd., Ste. 102
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Colorful flame angelfish and striped Chinese zebra bar gobies swim circles in plant-filled tanks while red-eyed white ferrets claw against the glass to greet a curious child.
Small grey mice run on wheels, and a large-eared fluffy rabbit drinks from their water dispensers.
Edward Youmans, almost 4, watches the guinea pigs and the mice with squealing delight. The brown-eyed boy eyes the turtles and the lizards, and is intrigued by the store’s one tarantula. He asks politely if he can hold one of the bunnies.
At Pet Station in the Raley’s Center in Incline Village, it isn’t uncommon for parents and kids, whether in the market to buy or just looking, to stop in and check out the array of pets for sale.
“It’s an opportunity to see some fun animals,” said Phil Bankhead, co-owner of Pet Station. “There’s something magical about a four year old seeing a mouse run on a wheel.”
ANIMALS THAT ARE PRACTICAL
With six locations in the region, Pet Station is a place to purchase household pets, though the majority of the business’s income doesn’t come from animal sales.
“The main reason we keep animals is because it’s fun for kids to come in and see them,” Bankhead said. “The animals are not the big money-maker — the animals are more the zoo-type atmosphere of the store.”
The majority of the revenue for Pet Station, said co-owner Marshall Grattan, is the selling of everyday items such as pet food and toys.
Pet Station sells leashes and crates, pet beds and treats. The Incline location also offers dog-training classes on Thursday afternoons.
But inside the large storefront, there are a few items Pet Station does not carry.
“We won’t sell dogs and cats,” Grattan said. “We work primarily with shelters to try to promote adoptions.”
Grattan also believes in only keeping animals that are practical for the environment in Incline Village.
Unlike other pet stores, the inside of Pet Station is relatively quiet due to the absence of singing parakeets and talking parrots.
“It’s too cold and it’s just not a good idea,” Grattan said about selling birds in Incline. “Sixty eight degrees is great for us in the wintertime, but for a bird it’s just too cold.”
EDUCATING THE CUSTOMER
Connie Stevens is a Tahoe City resident who owns a wildlife shelter on the West Shore that she uses for educational outreach.
Connie shops at Pet Station for a high protein turtle food and pet care supplies for her other exotic domestic pets.
The animal lover believes connecting with domestic animals and exotic domestic animals helps humans’ greater understanding of wildlife.
“If you understand the needs of domestic animals, you can understand the needs of the greater world at large,” she said.
Currently, Stevens is housing a ball python, a desert tortoise, a common iguana and a red-eared slider turtle, called Myrtle.
She agrees with Pet Station’s philosophy of customer education. Grattan said informing customers about the animals they purchase has always been a priority.
“We try to educate our customers to make sure they don’t make poor choices and the choices they do make, they stick with,” Grattan said. “You want to buy a turtle? You need to know that a turtle can live 100 years.”
PET STATION EXPANSION
Since first opening a location in Truckee eight years ago, Pet Station has grown rapidly.
In addition to Truckee and Incline Village, Grattan and Bankhead own locations in South Lake Tahoe, Gardnerville, Spanish Springs and Tahoe City.
The owners said growing the business was always part of the plan, and Pet Station was not created merely out of a love for pets, but from a strong foundation of retail experience and a vision for what the communities around Tahoe needed.
“We didn’t sit around and wonder how we can make people’s homes more feng shui,” Bankhead said. “We like retail and we like doing retail that’s fun.”
Even during the recession of 2008, Pet Station was able to stay afloat and continue growing. The owners believe it was due to their stores’ high level of customer service and affordable pricing.
“The reason we want to have multiple stores is that we feel our idea is a good one,” Phil said. “By having more stores that improves our ability to get products at a better price to pass on to the customer.”
From the beginning, the philosophy at Pet Station was to offer lower prices. The owners believe that locals shouldn’t have to go to Reno or other bigger cities to purchase pet supplies.
“If you didn’t have to go down the hill for a better price why would you?” Marshall said.
Pet Station in Incline Village is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Jenny Luna is a freelance reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza and Sierra Sun newspapers. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.