By Adam Sennott / Cambridge@wickedlocal.com
Posted Jul 22, 2019 at 7:20 AM / — A new pet store is set to open in Cambridge a year and a half after Petco closed its doors, claiming it was in response to a Cambridge ordinance banning the sale of animals obtained from commercial breeders.
Loyal Companion will hold a grand opening Sept. 21 in its new location at 85 First St., according to Michael DiTullio, founder partner of Independent Pet Partners, the company that owns Loyal Companion. The store does not sell live animals, but helps people adopt rescue dogs from animal shelters and offers discounted grooming and training services, DiTullio said.
“There’s all sorts of perks that we’ve allotted when they adopt a pet,” DiTullio said. “That’s freebies, that’s discounts on purchases for a period of time, and discounts on grooming and training.”
DiTullio first opened Especially For Pets in 1988 before it rebranded as Loyal Companion after being purchased by Independent Pet Partners in August 2017. The company, he said, has always been opposed to selling dogs obtained through commercial breeders due to the conditions in which they are raised.
“It would break your heart to see these puppy mills,” DiTullio said. “But that also extends to every living thing, whether it’s a kitten, whether it’s a lizard or a snake. [Loyal Companion] has never sold and never will sell a living being. The moral and humane approach is to give our customers access pets, preferably via adoption.”
Loyal Companion has locations around the country with several in Massachusetts, including Newton, Lexington, Dorchester, Stoneham and Danvers.
DiTullio said the new store in Cambridge will be a more digitally-focused experience for customers with employees equipped with iPads on the sales floor.
“Think of the experience when you go into an Apple store,” DiTullio said.
Jeff David, chief executive of Independent Pet Partners, said the Cambridge store will act as a one-stop shop for “pet parents” including daycare, grooming, annual health checks, advice on the best wellness programs, the right types of diets and more.
Pet parents will be able to drop their dog off, and while they’re at work the dog could be groomed, have a checkup with a vet, and if they realize they’re low on food they can order it through the app and pick it up at the store when they pick up their dog.
“It’s taking all of the best elements that other people have and bringing them all into one place,” David said.
Residents in East Cambridge have been without a pet store since Petco closed its location at 119 First St. in early 2018. The company said an ordinance Cambridge councilors passed banning the sale of pets from commercial breeders made the operation unviable.
“After nearly 20 years of service to the Cambridge community, we made the decision to close our Cambridge Petco store in January 2018 following the passing of a Cambridge ordinance banning the sale of commercially-bred pets,” Petco spokesperson Ventura Olvera said in an e-mail. “While we’ve never sold dogs or cats and proudly support a ‘Think Adoption First’ philosophy, Petco supports the human animal bond and responsible pet parenting by making responsibly-bred companion animals (e.g. reptiles, birds, etc.) available in our stores.
“Given the significant lack of adoptable companion animal pets in the area, removing these lovable pets from our store would have made more than 25 percent of our floor space non-operational, and significantly impacted labor hours and payroll for the passionate Petco partners who worked there,” Olvera said. “We remain grateful to the city of Cambridge and its residents for having made us part of the community for so long, and we continue to serve pet parents at our stores in Charlestown, Boston, Medford and Brighton, and online at petco.com.”
Shortly after Petco announced its decision to leave Mayor Marc McGovern sharply rebuked the company during a Dec. 4, 2017, City Council meeting, saying the sale of animals only made up three to five percent of their sales, and noted they would have been allowed to sell animals obtained from a shelter.
McGovern said Loyal Companion is proving that a pet store can survive without selling pets, and that he welcomes Loyal Companion to Cambridge.
“I’m excited to see a new pet shop that doesn’t sell animals opening up in Cambridge,” McGovern said. “When we passed the pet shop ordinance we highlighted that the revenue generated by animal sales was small and that pet shops could exist without selling animals from commercial breeders.
“This new shop shows that we were right,” McGovern said.