Diana Hobson is setting a green example for area business owners and customers alike. The owner of Pet Craze at Western Ways has chosen to think green in her new business endeavor on a number of levels including her buying practices, not only in the sale of environmentally friendly products, but also in the promotion of purchasing American and locally made products, her daily conservation and recycling practices, and her advocacy of animal rescue over the sale of animals. Hobson is also the owner of the well-known Western Ways, which has been in business for thirty-five years, and the only specialized horse and tack store in the area.
When Western Ways began to bulge at the framing, and since Hobson didn’t own the building in order to enlarge it, she was forced to relocate it to a bigger red barn built around the corner. Rather than abandoning the original location, which in this economy might have left the empty building to sit for an unknown period of time, she opted to follow her interest in the proper care and nutrition of dogs. So, she created Pet Craze at Western Ways, a new specialty pet store and do-it-yourself dog wash in the old Western Ways barn. One might think all of this does not sound very green, but just wait until you dig beneath the surface.
With the help of a couple of long-time friends, Kathy Malloy and Lisa Boedaphur, the store underwent a few very small renovations, some even built by friends and family. These included the addition of three stainless steel washing stations with easy access doors and ramps, and three grooming stations with easy access steps, and voila! Pet Craze at Western Ways was open for business after only a few short months.
But, what’s really great are all the ways Hobson has been thinking green in this new endeavor. For instance, she opted to install a tankless water heater with temperature regulators to conserve water and cut back on energy use in the tubs. She also installed lower energy blow driers for the dogs. Plus, the store provides micro-fiber super absorbent towels to cut blow drier time and offers complimentary natural shampoos that are environmentally safe. And, if you’re worried about all that laundry, not only do the micro-fiber towels cut the overall volume of laundry, but the store uses a load-sensitive, energy efficient washer and drier, as well.
Owners who take their pets to the groomers or even those who wash them at home in a traditional tub can now do so affordably with much less stress on the back. Plus, they can do so knowing they are not just saving money but helping to conserve water and energy in the process. Hobson will also be the first to tell her customers that dogs don’t need to be bathed too often. For a healthy coat and skin, they need their body oils and over washing only serves to dry their skin and waste time and valuable resources. Washing the dog once every couple months is usually more than sufficient.
In addition to her new green dog wash, Hobson is taking proper dog and cat nutrition very seriously. In preparation for opening the new store, she attended conferences and took animal nutrition classes in order to make informed choices on what lines of high quality foods she should promote in her store.
After careful deliberation, she has chosen some well-known and highly recommended brands like Wellness, Canidae, and Innova, along with some newer brands like the holistic line called Halo and the brand my own dog is raving about called Into the Wild. She offers some grain-free varieties for food allergy animals along with other organic foods and snacks for dogs and cats, as well. She even plans to keep one or two lines of fresh food in the store as soon as she has chosen the best products and the energy efficient freezer she’ll need to store them in.
When it comes to nutrition, Hobson is making sure her store is stocked with the best brands America has to offer and employing a knowledgable staff, including staff members with over twenty years of animal care experience who are ready to assist the customers.
One of the things which impressed me the most about Hobson is her insistence on promoting the best animal care practices. Rather than making a killing (often in more ways than one) selling animals like so many other pet stores, she will instead be promoting local animal rescue organizations. She has designated a blackboard area in the store for these organizations to advertise the animals they are currently trying to place, and Hobson plans to allow them to schedule weekend fundraisers and rescue fairs at the store. A donation box for the Humane Society was already in place for last Friday’s soft opening. Every person who asks about purchasing animals is encouraged to consider rescuing a pet instead.
Even better, Hobson is not fond of the idea of promoting caged animals, and although she wouldn’t dream of begrudging others their own pet choices, she has made the personal choice to specialize in the sale of only items for dogs and cats for this reason. She has supplemented her stock with and a few things to feed the wild backyard variety of bird for the birdwatchers and some affordable animal related gifts for the humans in the household.
Another thing that impressed me is Hobson’s reluctance to purchase too many needless items for the store. Rather than making sure every shelf is bulging with all kinds of low quality junk from unknown locations around the world, Hobson has tried to buy mostly useful items made in the United States. Not only is she buying as many American Made products as she can, she will also be providing products made by several local artists and small businesses. In addition, she has no problems leaving a few shelves empty for the time being until she is sure she has purchased quality items that her customers will really use.
Indeed, there will be some items of the frivolous nature for the pampered pet and their owners, but I am confident Hobson will refrain from overindulging in this kind of thing. Since my first day working with her when she spent hours looking for and finally choosing the best, most affordable, and environmentally safe shampoo products she could find, I quickly realized that wasteful living and buying practices just don’t seem to be in her make-up.
Having grown up on a farm, Hobson is a lover of nature and no stranger to green living practices. She claims her long-time staff at Western Ways has grown weary of her nagging when it comes to things like recycling and reducing the amount of paper they use. Because Lynchburg does not yet offer recycling pick-up services, she can often be seen loading her own van with cardboard, paper, and plastic items from the store to take to the nearest recycling center.
Everyone in her employ is expected to help keep paper use to a minimum and to look for ways they too can help reduce, reuse, and recycle. It is not uncommon to find items made from recycled materials in the store, and she has even made sure to purchase and promote the use of pooper scoopers and biodegradable bags for disposing of the unwanted doggy trash.
So if you are a lover of dogs and cats, particularly if you are interested in green living, when you are out running your errands come on by the new store in the little red barn on Route 221 in Lynchburg across from the Graves Mill Shopping Center. Feel free to bring your dog on a leash ( house rules) to check out the store and the do-it-yourself baths in the new Pet Craze at Western Ways. Feel free to offer suggestions to the friendly staff about any items you would like to see on the shelves, particularly if they are of a green nature.
All photos were provided by Amanda C. Sandos. Thanks to Diana, Forest, Angie, Moose, and Dylan Thomas for agreeing to be photographed.