"People come visit us very often," Ben Prakobit says. Customers come through every other day to pick up a quick treat or say hello. "It gives us a chance to ask, 'How is his foot doing?' and 'How long did the treat last?' I think it makes a big difference. When you can have a great conversation, just hearing about their day, it shows more of a family and friend community versus just a store." To beat the big-box stores and online competition, the young couple offer free weekday delivery and get out into the community at every opportunity.
The Modern Paws grew from an e-commerce site that delivered pet food to a grocery store partnership. "The owner of the grocery knew what we were doing with the e-commerce side of things and asked if he could sublease some square meters to us from his store to sell our products out of the store," Ben Prakobit explains.
The day after Christmas 2018 was when The Modern Paws opened the first storefront (151 m²). It has since become a popular pet store and grooming spot.
Friends and neighbours
Ben and Lisa Prakobit's dedication to community outreach has helped them develop good relationships in the neighbourhood. Even though it's a young crowd that loves to shop online, they get repeat customers because people want to support a local business. The store is in a downtown location, so they take their show on the road, working with rescues and showing up at apartment complex pop-ups and dog park grand openings to share food and treat samples. They let people know The Modern Paws is out there, offering free delivery to anyone in the county. "That's how we let them know we're located here, and that we do grooming, have a self-dog wash and do delivery," Ben Prakobit underlines.
Every year in December, the couple packs up a best-selling selection and sets up a tiny pop-up at Tampa Bay's popular Winter Village festival. As the temperature hangs around 20 °C, the city gives this palm tree paradise a snowfall feel with an outdoor ice skating rink, holiday concerts and Christmas-themed movies. Handpicked by festival planners to represent boutique shopping in downtown Tampa, The Modern Paws is one of the select vendors to get a tiny container to build out as a satellite store. From day one of the festival, they attract a queue around the block. The 6 m² space can fit about two dozen shelves and a few standing displays.
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