BY LIZETT BOND
Founded in 1732, the port city of Salisbury, Md., sits at the head of the Wicomico River,
a waterway leading to Chesapeake Bay. It’s a college town,
home to Salisbury University
and, not far from the campus,
Salisbury Super Pet, Pet Product
News International’s recipient of
the Retailer of the Year 2015-2016
Store Award, serves the needs of
the pet-loving community.
Supporting education is a significant component to the culture
of Salisbury Super Pet. Owner
Dennis Traum, himself a graduate of the university, opened the
doors to his venture in 1983; since
that time the venerable store has
hired many local high school
and college students, with these
local scholars often continuing
in their positions beyond college
The store also sponsors those
striving to complete a Maryland
State Board of Education ser-vice-learning requirement.
“High school students are
required to serve 75 hours of
community service,” said Ryan
Mello, assistant manager, local
high school graduate and alumnus of Salisbury University. “In
this effort, volunteers work two
or three hours per week, learning to care for the puppies and
kittens, cleaning and sweeping.”
When these young people
reach legal working age, they often
join the Salisbury Super Pet team.
In addition, employment
A HEARTY WELCOME
opportunities are provided for
individuals with disabilities
in cooperation with Somerset
Community Services. Work-
ing under the guidance of the
store’s animal caretaker, these
folks gain work experience and
life skills as they stock food,
clean tanks and cages, and carry
out store tasks.
Visitors to Salisbury Super Pet
arrive from a broad geographic
area and all walks of life.
“Plenty of people drive a distance to visit our store,” Mello
said. “We have things not available anywhere else.”
It’s a busy place. Store mascot Hagrid, an 8-year-old bearded dragon, savors his vocation,
welcoming guests in hopes of
a nosh on a proffered cricket
treat. During the warm summer months, 30-year-old African leopard tortoise Leo shares
greeting duties, lumbering
through aisles or basking in a
grassy area outdoors.
The store features puppies,
kittens and cats, saltwater and
freshwater fish, birds, small
mammals, and even tarantulas and scorpions, along with
a wide array of the necessary
foods and supplies to support
To ensure customer satisfaction, special orders allow shoppers
to obtain desired products that
might not be in stock, Mello said.
Puppy and fish sales comprise the largest percentage of the
business at Salisbury Super Pet.
Many puppies are acquired from
local breeders, and all are offered
with a health certificate and 30-
day guarantee. Should health
issues arise, the store takes care
of necessary medications.
“We take full responsibility
for our puppies,” Mello said.
Customers get acquainted
with potential furry family members in a large in-store enclosure.
The outdoor grassy area serves
the same purpose. Both areas
also allow canine youngsters to
stretch their legs.
Kittens and cats are available
for adoption in-store, in cooperation with the local humane society.
“We generally have three or
four cats or kittens at a time in our
cat room,” Mello said. “Customers
fill out the same paperwork that
they would at the humane society.
“We home five to 10 cats or
kittens per month,” he added.
These animals also serve as feline ambassadors to raise awareness for the humane society, and
a donation box sits at the register.
Salisbury Super Pet offers
a wide variety of dog and cat
foods, treats and supplies, as
well as dog and cat grooming
(along with nail trimming and
wing clipping), a staple since the
store first opened.
Grooming supplies and medications used in the salon are
available for purchase in-store.
Groomers also provide customer education concerning skin
issues and assist with product
selections in that regard.
Aquatics aficionados browse
an extensive display of more
than 100 tanks ranging in size
from 10 to 75 gallons of freshwater and saltwater fish. A broad
range of supplies awaits hobbyists, including tanks, food,
chemicals, filters and heaters.
Free water testing is provided,
and a maintenance service is at
the ready to assist with in-home
setup and continued upkeep.
“Approximately 70 percent
of our maintenance business is
devoted to commercial installations,” Mello said.
Pond supplies are available
year-round, with preformed
ponds, fish and plants joining
the mix in the warm summer
months. Pond maintenance servicing also is offered.
Reptile enthusiasts encoun-
ter a broad spectrum of animals,
from geckos to Burmese py-
thons, along with an extensive
inventory of food and supplies.
“We have two distinct reptile
groups; families coming in for a
first pet, where we show them
an animal that is small, easy and
not aggressive, and our regulars,
customers who always are look-
ing for something new,” Mello
said. “It’s the same with the fish
people, especially the saltwater
people—when they come in,
they know what they want.”
Mello added that many
aquatic enthusiasts order new
fish from Salisbury Super Pet,
often taking delivery right off
“We let them know when
their order will arrive,” he said.
Bird lovers find an extensive
array of supplies and foods,
as well as live birds, including
finches, lovebirds and cockatiels.
Small mammals, such as ger-
bils, rabbits, hamsters, mice, rats,
chinchillas, guinea pigs, rabbits
and ferrets, await devotees, along
with all necessary supplies.
“Rabbits are most common for
the college students, with ham-
sters and gerbils more popular
for the smaller kids,” Mello said.
In addition, the store stocks
complete kits featuring all the
essentials for keeping the new
pet. Customers purchasing a
bird or small animal also receive
a starter package of food. Those
taking home a puppy are given
a sample of the food being fed
Data sheets outlining the best
care for many of the animals
purchased are available online
or in print.
THE KNOWLEDGE FACTOR
Education is a crucial component
to the success of Salisbury Super
Pet, and a sense of responsibility, eagerness to learn and love of
animals are attributes sought in
new hires, Mello said.
Serving the Community
A steady supply of conscientious staff, old-school ways of doing
business and offering everything under the sun in one pet store
has kept this Maryland retailer in business for 33 years.
OUTSTANDING COMPREHENSIVE STORE AWARD
YEAR of the
Many hired students stay on beyond college graduation.