A Passion for Pets in Pittsburgh
Pet Product News’ 2018-2019 Retailer of the Year focuses on love, passion, pet
nutrition and gratitude.
1. Toni Shelaske, owner of Healthy Pet Products
2. The medicine cabinet section features pet supplements.
3. The store’s nutritional philosophy is to champion “real” food and treats.
4. The selection is complemented by accessories, toys and other supplies.
Locations: Retail stores: 9805 McKnight Rd., Pittsburgh, PA; 3043 Washington Rd.,
McMurray, PA; Grooming store: 2640 Brandt School Rd., Wexford, PA
Owner: Toni Shelaske
Number of employees: 13 full time, 22 part time
Years in business: 10
Average square feet: 4,500
Products and services: Raw, freeze-dried, dehydrated and canned pet foods, supplements, treats, pet supplies, small animal supplies, grooming, self-grooming, educational
seminars, adoption days, nutritional consultations
HEALTHY PET PRODUCTS AT A GLANCE
BY LIZE TT BOND
As a rule, a thriving enterprise is largely born from a fusion of attributes. Funda- mental characteristics, such as tenacity, experience, insight and knowledge, often blossom when passion comes into play, leavened with a bit of luck. To this mix,
Toni Shelaske, owner of Healthy Pet Products, which has two retail locations and a
grooming operation in the Pittsburgh area, adds a dose of gratitude.
“I love what I do—it’s not work. I am very grateful to have found my passion in
life,” Shelaske says. “I feel like I’m making a difference in the lives of pets.”
The entrepreneur enriches these sentiments with a business background.
“A lot of people get into the business because they love pets but are not necessarily
business people,” she says. “I have an extensive retail management background in
clothing. It’s the best of both worlds.”
She also recognizes the role her family played in her success.
“My parents are there for me in whatever I do,” she says. “I’m a lucky girl.”
From her career in the apparel industry, Shelaske transitioned to the pet sitting
business, a natural for the animal lover. As the owner of Pampered Pooches Pet Sitting
for eight years, she was alarmed at the number of pets suffering from ear infections,
itchy skin, allergies and other ailments.
While she researched solutions, it became clear to her that wholesome sustenance
is key to pet vitality. This study inspired her to share her findings with other pet
When her favorite locally owned independent pet retail store came on the market
in 2008, Shelaske sought her father’s guidance before making an offer.
“My dad is a businessman, and he said, ‘Go for it,’ so I did,” Shelaske says. “It was
just a tiny little store, about 1,000 square feet.”
At the time, raw foods were not in the product mix, but the store’s concept evolved
to reflect Shelaske’s own philosophy that a wholesome diet forms the cornerstone to
well-being. The impact of raw nutrition on canine and feline health, which she was
introduced to shortly after adopting her dog Meg in 2002, was a focal point for her.
“I have been a raw feeder for 20 years, even prior to owning Healthy Pet Products,”
For these reasons, the first order of business was to bring in a single-door freezer
to house raw foods. Within months, a move to a new site doubled the square footage.
“That’s when I started bringing more freezers in,” she says. “I was there for five
years before moving to our present 4,000-square-foot location, which we refer to as
the North Hills store.”
In 2011, the South Hills store opened in 2,000 square feet of space. Four years later,
a move brought the square footage to 4,800.
With plenty of space, the number of freezers multiplied.
“However, once you have so many freezers, they become inefficient,” Shelaske
says. “So, in 2014, I made the decision to put walk-in freezers in both stores.”
Still, demand escalated, and eventually double-door freezers were brought back in
to accommodate raw cat food. More followed to hold bones and other frozen products.
Hale and hearty, Meg’s presence as a four-legged store emissary validated the
benefits of raw nutrition for many years.
“Meg passed at age 15, but she was definitely our mascot,” she says. “We are the
raw stores now, and I’m planning to add more space to my walk-ins.”
When a locally owned grooming establishment became available in 2015, Shelaske
took the leap.
“Because of the internet’s pressure on retail, I thought it would be smart to get into
the services business,” she says.
The 2,200-square-foot location currently employs five groomers, and it features
a smaller mix of the same products found in the larger stores, including frozen raw
“It’s 50/50 grooming and retail,” Shelaske says. “We have seven bathing tubs, with
a self-wash option as well.”
Cleanliness and organization are central factors to the Healthy Pet Products
Countertops and floors sparkle, products are color coordinated and meticulously
PHOTOS COURTESY OF HEALTH Y PET PRODUCTS