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Natural Awakenings San Diego

From Our Door to Yours: Healing Their Dog Through Nutrition Unleashes Booming Pet Business

Dec 28, 2011 01:45PM ● By Kathy Valentine

When a business starts from a genuine desire to help others, it’s fulfilling to find that inspiration rewarded with success. For the owners of IB Pet, and now San Diego Pet Food Delivery, they might say, “Blame it on the dog”...but that’s a good thing!

Two young entrepreneurs found their dog Tanner, a young male Golden Retriever suffering from skin allergies, as the leading force in opening IB Pet in Imperial Beach. During a time of economic turmoil in 2009, co-owners Lori and Russ Blauert persevered through layoffs and military service while watching their dog regain his health with a diet change led them on a brand new journey.

Tanner, born in 2006, had Lori trekking to the vet repeatedly as a puppy.  “He had bad ears and hot spots,” Lori said. It was really frustrating to see her puppy suffer. In an attempt to heal her dog (and lessen the impact on her wallet), she began learning about pet nutrition. Lori found potentially irritating ingredients were in many brands.

Tanner led the way to business success
Tanner led the way to business success

“I was feeding him what I thought was really good food,” she notes. “Just because it’s expensive, doesn’t mean it’s good for your dog.” Learning about the benefits of a raw food diet, she introduced these foods to Tanner, along with kibble she’d researched. The transformation was remarkable, and the vet visits decreased dramatically.

Laid off from her marketing job, Lori started a pet-sitting business. While Russ had already been deployed once to Iraq with Navy Special Operations, the couple found a location in Imperial Beach’s Silver Strand Plaza, where they would get pet-loving traffic from a vet and groomer. In early 2009, they opened IB Pet, marrying only months later in June. Their advance research paid off—the store exceeded expectations, prompting a move doubling its space within the same plaza this past year.  In April 2012 they opened San Diego Pet Food Delivery as an adjunct business.

During the planning stages for both the store expansion and delivery business, Russ was deployed two more times to Iraq.  With an internet connection, many off-duty soldiers played video games; not Russ! He was at his keyboard developing the new San Diego Pet Food Delivery website. Back home, Lori had four employees to help out. “We’re blessed to have a great manager in Catalina Soto, she’s very knowledgeable,” notes Russ. He’s now left the military after eight years of service.

There were a few surprises with the new business: “We thought the majority of the customers would want us to deliver so they didn’t have to lug big bags of dog food home from the store,” states Russ. “Instead, the number one seller is raw food, about 75 percent from frozen raw meat.” This was an eye-opener, but the Blauerts now realize why raw food advocates find delivery so attractive.

“Space is limited in pet stores,” said Russ. “Most pet owners have to make multiple trips to the store to feed a frozen raw diet,” concurs Lori, also noting that most small pet stores only have one or two freezers. “If you know what you want and it’s not there, it’s disappointing,” adds Russ. Prepackaged raw food offers convenience, portion control and additional nutrients for a balanced diet.

“We can get anything that clients want, and we order weekly with one to two days heads up,” Russ states. Orders are delivered throughout most of San Diego County for only $5, including evenings or Saturdays. Top-selling raw food brands include Nature’s Variety, Primal and OC Raw, with kibble brands such as Innova carried as well. The Blauerts feed a combination of both raw and dry to Tanner, now five, and Cali, his four-year-old female Golden Retriever playmate.

Located just a few miles from IB Pet, the Blauert home is a mini-menagerie with Tanner and Cali, two cats and four chickens, which they use as a source of fresh brown eggs. “And they all get along,” he laughs. And when he says Lori’s been a little busy lately, he’s not kidding—the latest addition to the household is baby boy Lincoln, now 11 months old.

Riding the wave of growth predicted for the pet industry, Russ feels that local pet parents are on the cutting-edge with greater awareness about nutrition:  “Health-conscious people like to feed their pets healthy food; we see that here in the store.” And with every delivery, San Diego Pet Food Delivery stays true to its original desire in helping animals achieve optimal health—thanks to Tanner, the dog that led them along this journey.

For more information call San Diego Pet Food Delivery at 619-655-4363 or visit IB Pet is in the Silver Strand Plaza at 600 Palm Ave., Suite 127, Imperial Beach, 619-822-1610.