The ability to evolve while staying true
to its original goal of offering useful,
décor-enhancing merchandise is the
cornerstone of the longevity of one
San Francisco Bay Area retailer.
GEORGE AT A GLANCE
Owner: Bobby Wise
Locations: 2512 Sacramento St., San Francisco; 1824
Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA; 2420 Larkspur Landing Cir.,
Larkspur, CA; 1026-D Coast Village Rd., Santa Barbara, CA
Average square footage: 500
Employees: 6 full time, 6 part time
Products and services: Designer toys, collars, leashes,
beds and quilts; fresh-baked and packaged treats; premium dog and cat foods; pet supplies; adoption days
RETAILER OF THE YEAR
BY LIZETT BOND
Bobby Wise and Lyndon Lambert once regarded San Francisco as a temporary
stopover on their travels home to
New York. Instead, “The City by
the Bay” became their ultimate
The journey began in 1991
when Wise and Lambert, both
from Texas but enjoying careers
in the New York design industry,
were unable to find lifestyle and
décor-enhancing yet functional
pet products for their beloved
wire-haired fox terrier. So the pair
decided to use their skills and savvy to create their own pet products
and open a wholesale mail-order
business to market their toys,
collars, leashes, beds and quilts.
When the couple stopped in the
Bay Area on their way back to
re-establish roots in Texas after
leaving New York, they fell in love
with the city and stayed.
The San Francisco endeavor
was christened George, after their
furry family member.
“That little dog changed ev-
erything,” said Wise. “Our intent
was to create nicely designed,
everyday products for pet lovers
who cared about how those things
looked in their house.”
George designs gained popu-
larity, and by 1995, a retail location
in San Francisco opened its doors
in order to showcase product.
“We wanted our own space to
properly merchandise and show
off our products,” said Wise.
“We envisioned a really sweet,
old-fashioned pet store from the
’40s or ’50s with great aesthetics.”
Soon, shoppers began to request that George expand its product mix to include more basic pet
“We would not have had a retail business with just our line; it
wasn’t complete,” he said.
THE PACE ACCELERATES
Since that time, three more
George stores have opened. The
2,600-square-foot Berkeley location includes retail space, along
with a warehouse and office. Two
smaller locations followed, each
under 400 square feet, one in Larkspur and Santa Barbara, Calif.
During its 25-year history in
the Bay Area, George has seen
economic ups and downs, but the
store’s functional yet aesthetically
pleasing designs, warm staff and
welcoming ambience are timeless
hallmarks. The ability to evolve
while staying true to its original
goal are the keys to that longevity.
“At George, we cater to customers looking for pet products
that will embody their lifestyle,”
VISION BY DESIGN
Lambert passed away in 1999 and
George in 2002; however, Wise re-
mains committed to the couple’s
original vision for the stores.
“Together we learned what
we liked and what looked good,
and established our design vo-
cabulary,” said Wise. “That keeps
carrying forward; it makes me
happy knowing I’m continuing to
do something that we were so pas-
sionate about. And naturally, the
same goes for little George.”
The fabrics and colors used in
Wise’s pieces are complementary,
creating a pleasing palette.
“The designs all are coming
out of the same head, so they
look good together,” Wise said.
“Even if the colors are totally dif-
ferent, they have a similar feel or
Further, with 40 percent of the
product featured in each store
consisting of proprietary George
goods, the visually engaging am-
bience is distinctive.
“At George, we are very care-
ful about how we design the
stores and display our products,”
he said. “If you have an eye for
design and for creating a pretty
shopping experience, it shows
in the merchandising and store
In addition to George creations,
other products are created by local
artisans, and most are sourced in
“People love it when we tell
them an item is made locally, like
bowls made in California or baked
treats,” he said.
George also has collaborated with Appalachian and South
American knitters, and is currently working with a Mexican craftsman to create toy designs.
“We’ve worked with many
small artisan companies,” he said.
“Not only are their skills really
amazing, but it also gives them an
opportunity to practice their craft,
make money and provide George
with these cool products.”
Reinvention is key to maintain-
ing an evolving and current prod-
uct selection, Wise said.
“It’s a very organic progres-
sion,” he said. “As long as the
magic continues, the product
works. You might think you have
it nailed down, but it’s nailed
down for, like, 10 minutes until
the wind changes.”
When selecting George’s in-
ventory, Wise seeks items that
please his eye, which translates to
wares shoppers are drawn to.
“I have a certain taste that I am
lucky people like,” he said.
Products often are displayed
in small vignettes, which might
include a bed, jacket, quilt or toy.
These arrangements are particularly successful in the larger San
“We do it in the other stores
in a more micro way,” he said. “It
helps people to expand their way
of thinking, and the cute factor is a
big deal, too.”
Inventory varies slightly at
each location in response to differ-
ences in locale. For instance, Lark-
spur and Santa Barbara custom-
ers’ homes typically feature yards
for their pets, so offerings differ
for those living in San Francisco’s
smaller, closer quarters.
Food choices are grain free
and include dehydrated and frozen raw. The San Francisco store
carries a broader selection of food.
“Food drives people to the
shop, and that’s the beauty of our
SHOPPING & THE CITY
When life calls for a little canine retail therapy, Belinda Presser and
Chester, her miniature wire-haired dachshund, visit George. Beyond
the essentials, its friendly people, stylistic energy and eclectic designer
options keep the pair coming back.
“It’s a thoughtfully curated and cared for collection,” said Presser.
“Chester has George bowls and a placemat, a dog bed and many of the
toys. His favorite toy is his rubber stick based on the George logo.”
A longtime San Francisco resident, Presser, and her first dachshund,
Willy, began frequenting George shortly after it opened in 1995. Presser’s
career in design left her highly impressed with the store’s layout and
“I loved George from my first visit,” she said.
Then, the concept of functional, home-décor-enhancing products for
pets and owners was nonexistent.
“Suddenly, here were these talented people creating pieces that you
wanted to display at home,” she said.
Beyond it all, George’s spirit of community is central to Presser’s loyalty.
“I love the personal service,” she said. “Many staff members have
been at George for 25 years. They feel like friends, because they have
become friends. I always recommend George to pet lovers; it’s the best
pet store in San Francisco.”
Won the West