When Dena Gilmore opened Wags to Wiskers Pet Supplies on Chelsea’s south side five years ago, she wanted it to become a “community gathering spot” where customers would feel welcome, get questions about pet care answered, and buy good-quality pet food and supplies. Now that she’s gotten to know the city better, she says she’s expanding to meet its needs.
The store’s expansion from 2,500 to 3,900 square feet is planned for completion in mid-March. The larger space will allow her to add more product lines that focus on natural, holistic nutrition for dogs and cats. She also carries supplies for small animals, fish, reptiles, and domestic and wild birds. And if she doesn’t have an item a customer needs, she’ll order it. Gilmore says it’s customer service that sets her apart from the chain pet stores.
“I don’t want to be a PETCO,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to be like a corner store where customers become my friends and they can get help solving their pet care problems.”
Gilmore, a Tecumseh resident, created Wags to Wiskers eight years ago after leaving a career in purchasing at Ford. The MBA graduate and owner of four dogs was looking for a way to combine her business skills with her love of animals. Gilmore opened her first store in Saline, which she has since sold to an employee. She licensed a store in Gaylord in 2007 and recently added a Wags to Wiskers in Ann Arbor.
She says she uses her purchasing background to offer customers competitive prices and “an abundance of products made in the United States.” She plans to roll out a rewards programs for regular customers soon.
Gilmore welcomes four-legged shoppers in her store. She wants it to be a friendly place. “I love that 99 percent of the people who walk into my store are happy,” she says.
Wags to Wiskers Pet Supplies, 1171 S. Main, Chelsea. 475–7000. Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–7 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
Mission Marketplace’s manager Kevin Frahm says his fair trade gift shop is looking for a “complementary tenant” to share about 500 to 800 square feet of its space. The nonprofit has been at the 117 South Main location since 2006 selling handcrafted items from workers in less developed countries. Although Frahm says “Chelsea’s been good to us,” business is down, causing the organization to look for ways to supplement its income. “I know the economy is forcing people to think outside the box and be more creative in their ventures,” he says.
Mission Marketplace, 117 S. Main, Chelsea. 475–7604. Mon.–Thurs. 10 a.m.–
6 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 10 a.m.–8 p.m., Sun. noon–5 p.m.
Chelsea Rentals & Hearth Sales operations manager Jared Powers says party rental stores often are forced to close during the slow winter months, but the addition of hearth sales to his sales lineup a few winters ago is keeping the business healthy year round. He sells fireplace inserts, and coal, corn, and wood-pellet stoves—adding new brands each winter. Government tax credits for many of the fuel-efficient products are helping to boost sales.
Chelsea Rentals & Hearth Sales, 20401 Old US-12, Chelsea. 433–1212. Mon.–Sat. 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Closed Sun.
Chelsea Gallery at 115 South Main closed at the end of December. A message on the gallery website says the owners had “pursued many angles” to keep it viable. The gallery opened in 2000.