Denise and Brendon Clifton, owners of Pupologie in Encinitas
We never know where cupid’s arrow will strike. It’s often in the least likely place we would have thought. For Denise and Brendon Clifton, owners of Pupologie in Encinitas, cupid planted some seeds back in 2003 when Denise was the general manager for five Pet Nutrition Center stores—and she was Brendon’s boss. But it wasn’t until she bought the Encinitas store in 2005 when cupid’s arrow actually pierced skin. And it happened in a very unusual way. “I’d just bought the store and had only one other employee working with me so I was there all the time,” says Denise. “However, I soon noticed that a gentleman, whom I didn’t know, was also appearing at my store all of the time.” This lingering shopper made her feel uncomfortable. Thankfully upon hearing Denise’s concerns Brendon decided to spend more time at her store as well, sometimes even leaving his job early to be there for her on the days the guy showed up. “I’d already known that Brendon was a laid back, very friendly and smiley guy,” she says, “but this was the first time I’d seen his protective side come out.” She liked the way his presence made her feel safe and secure. And it wasn’t long before the guy stopped coming in.
The pair began dating and in 2007 Brendon not only came to work at Denise’s store, they also moved in together and became engaged. And it’s been a match made in puppy heaven ever since. According to Denise, the two have a very synergistic working relationship. Brendon is in charge of supplies, deliveries and stocking inventory, while Denise orders inventory, meets with suppliers, and assumes the overall managerial position. “While I could be considered more of the authority in the store, Brendon is definitely the comic relief,” says Denise. She shares that his silliness is very much appreciated by their five staff members.
So what do they offer in their store? “It’s amazing to see how much the industry has changed since I first bought the store,” explains Denise. “More and more consumers are reading labels and choosing better products all on their own.” Pupologie carries one of the largest selections of natural pet foods in San Diego County. “I am focusing on offering non-GMO and locally sourced ingredients, smaller brands that make their own products, and companies that are more environmentally friendly,” says Denise. In the holistic pet food arena, Denise and Brendon are trendsetters. “I’m not afraid to bring in the latest and the greatest pet foods in the market,” affirms Denise.
While some people can’t imagine living and working with their spouse, Denise and Brendon can’t imagine it any other way. Sure, there were a few kinks that had to be worked out in the beginning, but Denise says their relationship is on steroids compared to many other couples they know. “I feel blessed that we get to be around each other all of the time because we really enjoy being together,” she shares. “Our communication skills are great. They kind of have to be when you are running a business like ours.” She goes on to say that they learned early on not to take things personally. “Spending this much time together, we’ve become very in tune with one another and can tell when the other needs space.” The only issue is that when the busy season comes around, often they can forget to spend more “quality” time together, like going on dates, and making a point to do something fun.
Right now, Denise feels that the store is running like a very well-oiled ship. “It has taken a while to get here, and we had to make a lot of mistakes, but we feel that we’ve mastered running the store,” she says. And it shows. Pupologie is a flourishing business, so much so that it’s hard sometimes to keep up with demand. Denise even mentioned expansion.
It’s obvious that the pair has figured out how to make their life work. They’re shining examples of passion with a purpose. Cupid did Encinitas a huge favor when he drew back his bow and aimed it at Denise and Brendon Clifton.
Pupologie is located at 123 N. El Camino Real, Ste. G in Encinitas. For more information, call 760-436-1226 or visit Pupologie.com.