Published February 2006
A couple of years ago, Janet Berwick experienced what she jokingly calls a career “midlife crisis.”
A longtime health-care administrator who helped start Bothell-based HealthForce Partners, Berwick decided it was time to turn her professional sights on a subject she had been passionate about since her youth: dogs and cats.
“In my family, we have always had dogs and cats or a combination of both. I have always felt they added to a person’s quality of life,” said Berwick, who has two dogs and three cats of her own.
So she took a year-and-a-half off to volunteer her time to help animals in need, including spending a month at an animal sanctuary in Utah, and to better gauge how she could make her passion a professional reality.
After researching the pet-care industry, Berwick said she was drawn to the retail side of the business. But before stepping out on her own, she spent nine months working for another pet store — just to be sure it was what she wanted to do.
It was, and last March, Berwick opened Paddywack in Mill Creek Town Center.
The pet store, which caters to the needs of dogs and cats, carries naturally preserved dog and cat foods that are free of byproducts and artificial coloring, including such brands as Timberwolf Organics, Pinnacle, Merrick Wilderness Blend, California Natural, Innova and Wellness.
There also is a selection of raw diets and holistic supplements not often found on the pet-food aisles of a grocery store — or even big-box pet stores, Berwick said.
That — and her knowledgeable staff — is how she competes against the national chains.
It’s easy to order from a local distributor and “just get the same thing that everybody has,” Berwick said. It’s more difficult to work with the smaller distributors and local businesses that have something to offer. But that’s what she does — working with a couple hundred of them.
“I also really like supporting other small businesses, especially if they’re local,” she said, including Simon & Huey’s, a Seattle-based manufacturer of all-natural dog treats.
Berwick’s attention to product quality doesn’t come with a higher price tag for consumers, however.
“We really don’t consider ourselves a boutique, with boutique prices,” she said. “I started a store I would shop in, so I try to be price conscious. I think people are pleasantly surprised when they come in.”
Along with food and treats, Paddywack carries other pet-care items, toys and pet clothing, from simple bandanas to more elaborate sweaters and jackets.
“I always want people to have fun in our store, so if I see someone laughing at the pet clothes we have ... I know I’m doing my job,” Berwick said.
Since opening nearly a year ago, Paddywack has grown its client base mainly through word of mouth, she said, adding that location also has been helpful in building business.
“I think the Town Center is a draw. A lot of people are curious about what is new and what is opening,” she said of Mill Creek’s new retail development, which includes anchor tenant Central Market as well as specialty stores such as House of Bread, deVine Wines and KaBloom flower market.
During the past holiday season, Paddywack’s sales were better than Berwick had originally budgeted for, with people from outside of the area visiting the shop to buy gifts for their furry family members, she said.
“I’m really excited about next year when everything else is finished in the new Town Center.”
© 2006 The Daily Herald Co., Everett, WA