Life in our Foothills May 2023 – The Southern Pet – Helping You Take Better Care of Your Pet
Published 2:26 pm Thursday, May 11, 2023
It was a gutsy move for Stephanie Bakanosky to pack up her family, leave Massachusetts, and head down South to make a new life in Landrum. She knew she wanted to start a high-end pet supply business wherever she landed. Stephanie was managing such a store in Massachusetts and had other work experiences in animal care. The fact that Stephanie’s parents had moved to the area several years ago made the decision to move a bit easier. In fact, Stephanie’s mom, Robin LeClair, helps in the store several days a week and serves as bus driver to pick up Stephanie’s boys from school.
Stephanie had heard from mom about how dynamic the Landrum downtown scene is and that it’s just going to get even busier. Landrum was her first choice to land her new business, “The Southern Pet.” It doesn’t hurt that she is just up the block a couple of doors from P3 Consignments, a unique store that provides support for all the local animal welfare groups. “In a way,” Stephanie says, “we’ve almost become sister stores.”
With six pets of her own (four cats and two dogs), Stephanie has become very cautious and fussy about the food and treats she gives them. Her years managing the pet supply store back in Massachusetts gave Stephanie the knowledge and background in what to look for in a quality pet food. Stephanie also knows how time spent with a patron asking the right questions can help her give a guided choice to make a difference in a pet’s health.
These days, pet parents want what’s best for their dog or cat or another animal companion. Pets have become beloved members of the family. The Southern Pet has upped the game to make sure they can offer pets the best foods, snacks, supplements, and even toys available.
One obvious quality that customers have come to appreciate is all the time Stephanie and Robin take to discuss their pets’ special needs. It could be a skin issue, a stomach issue, or a particularly picky eater. They listen, offer suggestions, and even let customers take home some samples to try before committing to a whole bag. But if a customer buys the bag and it’s just not working, Stephanie will take it back and give them a store credit. The returned food is offered to P3 Consignments in hopes of matching it with one of the local animal rescues or even to a family who might be struggling financially so they can provide for their pets.
The foods and treats you find lining the shelves in The Southern Pet won’t be found in big chain stores. Her products are almost totally from small family run businesses. She researches each product before placing it in her shop. Stephanie says, “I’m very cautious about what I bring in. I want to know where it is sourced, where it’s manufactured, what the ingredients are, and where those ingredients come from.” Her standards often exceed what the government allows in pet food.
Stephanie explains that cats and dogs are carnivores at heart. So much processed food you pick up at the neighborhood supermarket might say it’s “meat flavored” or might include a notice that some sort of meat is the “first ingredient.” But those foods are often mixed with mostly cereals. Dogs and cats will eat it, if that’s all they’re getting…but Stephanie knows it’s not what’s best for their bodies.
The Southern Pet is fully stocked for all your dog and cat needs. There are a couple of shop cats who make sure they get first dibs from each new shipment. Stephanie is adding supplies for other pets as well. She already has some horse provisions and supplements and will be adding items for other household pets including rabbits, Guinea pigs, birds, and even mice. In addition to a large selection of foods including raw items, the store also has supplements, treats, chews, raw bones, grooming supplies, interactive toys, travel carriers and accessories, and pet beds. In fact, Robin and Stephanie even handcraft macrame cat beds. They’ve been a hit with cats including her own.
Recently, she has been offering a program called UCARI. It’s a pet sensitivity and intolerance test. Pet parents send in some pet hair samples to the lab. Two days after reaching the lab, Stephanie will have the complete results to discuss with the pet’s owner. This can answer a lot of questions about a pet’s specific dietary needs.
Stephanie is very pleased with the welcome she’s received. Business is growing and she is thrilled to have so many repeat customers. New folks discover the store every day. Eventually she might look for a larger space but is quick to mention that it will be in Landrum. With more room, she could carry more of everything. And, with more space, Stephanie would consider adding other services. Examples might include a “spa” day where pets can get their nails trimmed and she might even provide a do-it-yourself pet-wash station.
When your pets are happy and healthy, it’s a good day. Stephanie Bakanosky wants to do her part to help you improve your pet’s health, extend their lives, and help them live the best life they can. It’s a win-win.
The Southern Pet is located at 116 East Rutherford Street in Landrum. 864/ 457-1224. www.TheSouthernPet.us.
Follow them on all the usual social media outlets. Open Tuesday-Saturdays.