It’s often true that many pet owners treat their four-legged friends like a member of their family, something the entire pet services industry is geared toward. Aharon Blachorsky and Abe Kanfer have had a front-row seat to that reality, having been business partners for the past 22 years, ever since opening the original Pet Menu store in Queens on Northern Boulevard and 192nd Street.
Blachorsky attended college with Kanfer’s brother and became interested in starting a business,” he said. “I was looking to change careers after a real estate career and I contacted his brother and I said ‘I’m looking to get into a business, you have a family history in this business, what’s your recommendation and I need a partner.’ So he says ‘I’ll get back to you’ and then he goes ‘my brother wants to do it with you’.”
Kanfer’s family owned Triumph Pet Industries, a dog and cat food business.
“I grew up summers doing that sort of thing,” he said.
The opportunity soon came up to open a new retail location in New Hyde Park at the P.C. Richard’s strip mall on Hillside Avenue near Lakeville Road.
“We were looking, but not seriously,” Kanfer said. “If something came up and really struck our eye we were going to jump at it because obviously the economy is bad and going anywhere is taking a risk. But we like this area, we like the demographics, we like the location, the parking, the high visibility from Hillside Avenue and just the fact that for our industry it’s fairly untapped from what we do.”
Added Blachorsky: “we like the shopping sort of thing, busy intersection. It was kind of ideal for our sort of business, people go out do their shopping, do their business and it was what we liked; nice neighborhood.”
However, they are not able to offer as many services in the new location since it is slightly smaller than their flagship store in Queens.
“Here there wasn’t room to do grooming,” Blachorsky said, noting that although they do not sell animals, they do cater to the exotic pet lover, stocking food for reptiles and chinchillas, among others.
“We do cover it all but we’re not covering wild exotic,” Kanfer said. “Although we can get monkey chow.”
While the recession has not really taken a toll on the pet food industry – animals still need to be fed – there has been a noticeable drop off in the accessory market.
“They’re not going to buy the $100 carrier, but buy a $50 carrier,” Kafner said. “We always cater to more budget-conscious for accessories but high quality food conscious people that want to get the best nutrition and that’s really their major priority.”
According to the two men, one of the biggest trends in the pet food industry right now is grain-free foods and raw diets.
“We sell frozen raw diets, which are all-natural,” Kanfer said. “The food’s not processed, it’s based on a formula called BARF – bones and raw food – so it’s bones, raw meats and fruits and vegetables. That’s what a lot of holistic vets would recommend who are into nutrition and feeding an animal as an animal.”
The grain-free movement is an answer to avoiding filler in pet food and potential recalls.
While owners have a plethora of outlets from which to buy the food they give to their pets, from dedicated pet stores to supermarkets and even online, Kafner says that Pet Menu will offer something larger name-brand locations won’t.
“We’re acting as independent retails that responds to our customer base as opposed to a big box store which is a corporate mentality and they can’t react as quickly,” he said. “Like if a customer want’s something, they’ll never get anything if it’s not on the shelf. And frankly, we’re more competitive than they are because we’re looking to be fair across the board. I think by and large, we carry more, different, varied than anybody else If we don’t have something, we generally have access to getting what’s needed and I think here when you shop you’ll get better service.”