It was the third week of the city’s shelter-in-place order, but an otherwise typical day at Cal’s Pet Supply, where Tricia Principe checked in her shipment and shelved a line of specialty dog and cat foods. , chew toys and homemade treats just like she would on any other Thursday.
“Pets should eat like people should eat,” Principe said from her shop in the Richmond District Center. “Any disruption to their diet can cause problems for them and their people.”
The idea of closing Cal’s doors in the face of the outbreak never occurred to Principe, although it has made the necessary adjustments to keep its customers, itself and its employees safe in the process. city-wide effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“Sure, it’s a little scary, but we’re doing everything we can to keep things sanitized between each transaction – wiping down the credit card machine, the door, the phone, the shopping carts,” he said. she declared. “Our community needs us. It is a huge responsibility and also a privilege to serve them.
Principe added a table between his counter and his customers to ensure that there are always six feet between them.
“I marked intervals in front and behind the counter and around the store. I ordered some little vinyl labels to remind people to keep their distance,” she said. “It’s just a matter of controlling the flow and giving everyone the space.”
Any potential lack of business due to reduced foot traffic and the rush to online shopping has been mitigated by customer loyalty and Cal’s close attention to the needs of local pets and their inhabitants, little luxuries like curbside service, catnip, and other plant-based items. .
“We’ve always sold a good chunk of CBD products for dogs with anxiety,” Principe said, though she’s hearing less about animal stress during the crisis. “Their people are there,” she said, and with families at home, adoptions were on the rise (the San Francisco SPCA adoption center and Animal Care and Control have since closed until further notice ).
“People who were planning on having a puppy in the summer or considering fostering are now adopting puppies and older dogs,” Principe said. She is selling more puppy pads, dog diapers and wipes, not only to new dog parents, but also to people who are unable to take their dog out as often as they would like in these times.
“Pets are doing pretty well during the crisis,” observed Principe, a longtime animal lover. “I have learned a lot from birds, dogs and cats in my life.”
Following the 2008 recession, Principe was fired from her profession as a graphic designer. The midlife job search wasn’t paying off much until she heard about the opportunity to acquire Cal’s. The store’s founder was ready to retire, and although Principe had no previous experience in the pet industry, after working closely with him for a few months and getting to know the business, her ability to manage and organize manifested itself and allowed a natural evolution in 2011.
“Everything fits together. The timing was perfect. It was the best thing I’ve ever done,” said Principe, a San Jose native who has lived all over California and has been a home of The City for nearly 30 years.
“I’m very fortunate that everyone in our community supports our business and is committed to shopping small,” said Principe. “I carry as many things as I can from small businesses. Our dog beds come from a small woman-owned business in Berkeley. Our cat trees come from a small business in Petaluma. I am always grateful to live here, to work here and that our money stays here,” said Principe who lives a few miles from the shop with her husband, Mark who sometimes joins her at work.
Last year, Cal’s survived another business hiatus when a needed renovation stretched from March to August.
“The owner paid construction people a bit more to work around us so we could stay open. I was grateful but it wasn’t easy sometimes. We had to get creative,” said Principe who knows she got lucky with the arrangement. “If I ever decide to do a pop up store, I have the experience.”
After celebrating her ninth year as owner of Cal, at every turn she pointed to community support as key to the success of a modest storefront business surviving in the age of big box stores and online shopping. From bookstores to restaurants and pet stores, for small businesses to emerge intact from the pandemic, continued patronage is essential right now.
“Everyone has been so understanding and so respectful,” she said of her client’s response to the national emergency. Some even showed up with hand sanitizer and gloves, fearing Cal could be caught up in the shortages. “A customer brought us face masks,” Principe said.
“It warms my heart endlessly. Providing a helpful service to our neighbours, many of whom have become friends we didn’t have before, is one of the best parts of the business,” she said. “Everything I’ve done in my life has led to this. That’s where I belong.”
Denise Sullivan is an author, cultural worker, and editor of “Your Golden Sun Still Shines: San Francisco Personal Histories & Small Fictions.” She is a guest columnist and her perspective is not necessarily that of the reviewer. Follow her at www.denisesullivan.com and on Twitter @4DeniseSullivan.