When Eric and Michelle Jurisin acquired a 40-foot mahogany bar
with its polished brass and plush green upholstery, the couple
knew it needed a special home. After all, it was the very bar they
sat at during their dating days. Thus, Nic’s Famous Italian Steak
and Crab House was born in the Old Town district of Cottonwood,
Ariz., with the beautiful piece installed as a focal point. It’s an
event that prompted a revitalization movement within the two-block district.
“We opened Nic’s 15 years ago so we’d have a place for our
own dates,” says Eric Jurisin. “At the time, Cottonwood’s historic
Old Town was two blocks of great buildings, a large percentage
of which were just sitting empty.”
The restaurant was a hit, and soon merchants and other
business professionals, who dined at Nic’s, were beguiled by Old
Town’s charm. As a result, many hung shingles and opened doors
on the historic street.
“Isn’t that how so many of these street revitalizations go all
across America?” he says.
Several years later, as the area emerged as a wine region, the
street flourished as a tourist destination. The Jurisins eventually
opened several more dining establishments, as well as The
Tavern Hotel, a luxury, Euro-style inn.
However, when Denise Strong began welcoming customers
to Pawz on Main in 2014, Jurisin was skeptical.
“I didn’t see people in our area spending high-end money on
their dogs and didn’t think the store would be around long,” he
says. “Demographically, it just did not work in my mind. I was
Jurisin noted that the Pawz on Main experience combines a
welcoming vibe with expertise and a distinctive mix of offerings.
“Denise goes out of her way to find fun products for animal
lovers—items you wouldn’t see in a big-box store,” he says.
“Pawz on Main is a gathering spot for pet lovers; it’s like their
own world. Denise brings that feeling to her store.”
The very site where the Strongs’ adventure began is now
the Jurisin’s Crema Craft Kitchen. The café’s walk-up ordering
window is a favorite with Pawz on Main customers, who order a
coffee and then stroll across the street to hang out with Strong.
Often, these pet owners make a day of their outing.
“We sell meals because those customers shop with her and
then dine with us,” he says. “Who would have thought a pet
store would be an asset to our restaurants?”
THAT OLD TOWN
knowledge-based customer service and an ever-evolv-ing inventory.
“I live a sort of fast-forward lifestyle, and I’m open
minded about products that I bring into the store,” she
says. “This is definitely not your typical pet store.”
Strong is dedicated to providing stellar nutrition to lo-
cal pets, and in an effort to stay abreast of changes, trends
and recalls, her research is continual. As a result, she is
considered the go-to expert for many pet lovers in the
Cottonwood area and beyond.
“People with pets don’t always have time to sit down
at the computer,” she says. “My customers trust that I
have already done the research.”
Food offerings include organic and all-natural prod-
ucts that are grain and chemical free, manufactured with
human-grade ingredients, and USA sourced and made.
“I bring in foods based on what I would feed my own
pets,” Strong says. “You are not going to find hundreds
of brands in my store, but what I do carry is based on my
Because of Strong’s reputation for inquiry, clients of a
local holistic veterinarian in nearby Sedona, Ariz., often
are referred to Pawz on Main for assistance in pet food
In addition, a broad array of supplies including supplements, treats, dental care, bedding, grooming products
and more round out the mix.
Items are uniquely displayed on wooden, hand-carved shelving from India and other unconventional
“My bully bar with all my single bully sticks is an old,
iron wine rack,” she says. “Everything is custom here.”
For the canine wishing to flash a little bling, Susan
Lanci collars and harnesses with genuine Swarovski crys-
tals are in stock, along with a selection of hand-painted
collars and other boutique items.
However, the mix transcends goodies for the furry set.
Two-legged shoppers can browse an array of specialty
gifts and souvenirs, including wine accessories, Laurel
Burch designer tote bags, novelty socks, cards, candles,
pillows and doormats.
“I try to carry choices that cover all price points so that
everyone can afford to buy something fun,” Strong says.
To keep things fresh, inventory is constantly evolving.
“Our local customers are here every week,” she adds.
“I have to offer new things.”
STANDING OUT FROM THE COMPETITION
Strong credits a notable portion of Pawz on Main’s business growth to CBD hemp oil.
“I added CBD to my inventory in early 2016 after los-
ing my beloved 3-year-old Yorkie, Isabel, to a toxic mix of
pharmaceuticals prescribed by a veterinarian,” she says.
“CBD is literally changing pets’ lives, from chronic pain to
arthritis to anxiety, cancer and more, by providing maxi-
mum health benefits in a natural way.”
Consumer response has been remarkable.
“It’s mind boggling,” she adds. “We have people com-
ing in month after month to pick up their CBD.”
However, the retailer counseled caution when pur-
chasing product, adding that not all choices are created
“I buy mine from Pet Releaf, a company based out of
Colorado,” Strong says. “It’s all grown organically, and I
find the quality of their products beyond reproach. The
owner has even been out to do an onsite workshop for
Additionally, Strong shares her own fact-findings with
“I do mini workshops every single day,” she says. “We
sell about 80 bottles a month.”
Cottonwood sits on the Valley Verde Wine Trail, and
as the scene grows, oenophiles flock to the region. Strong
estimates that 20 percent of her business is the result of
tourism. Travelers checking into the area’s pet-friendly
hotels are greeted by distinctive Pawz on Main gift bags
filled with food and treat samples and a discount coupon.
Pawz on Main is not without competition; a big-box
retailer, a smaller pet chain and a local feed store are within proximity. However, Strong’s selections, knowledge
and personal touch all serve as differentiators. In addition, home delivery services are available.
Price matching is another avenue to staying competitive. Strong examines the prices being offered through the
online merchants and compares those findings with each
of her own product offerings.
“Talk about labor intensive,” she says. “I look at companies that are charging for shipping and those that are
not, I figure out the price points, and I’m there.
“On some items, I don’t make a lot of money; oth-
ers, I’m OK,” she added. “But we sell in quantity, so this
works for us.”
Strong takes great pride in a customer base that she
also considers her circle of friends.
“I’m old school and keep it personal,” she says. “When
a customer comes through my door, they are greeted im-
mediately and by name, we hug and I remember their
Tables and seating, including a cushy easy chair, en-
courage customers to linger and visit while soaking in the
unique décor and quaint character of Pawz on Main.
“My store is comfortable,” Strong says. “Shoppers
know I’m not pushy, but if they have questions, I’m right
there with them for some one-on-one time.”
FOCUS ON COMMUNITY
Community is a primary focus at Pawz on Main, and
that involvement encircles both critters and their people.
Championing the cause of homeless pets is an all-important aspect, and adoption days take place on an “as needed” basis in cooperation with area shelters.
That assistance takes a walk on the glamorous side
when the annual Dogs on the Catwalk fete gets underway. A furry fashion show is the highlight of the all-day fundraiser, which benefits Breeder Release Adoption Service. The 35-foot runway platform, designed by
Steve, spans the interior of the store and is lined with
chairs. Spectators observe chic local pooches, owners in
tow, strutting their stuff in canine couture from Pawz on
Main, and they partake of libations and dine on a repast
prepared by Denise. Raffles and live music complete the
“The founder of the rescue group comes from Colorado and brings a few small dogs available for adoption,”
The Payments in Kind program supports pets in need
though Pawz on Main’s credit card processing center,
with a percentage of those fees donated to groups of
Seasonally, popular holiday pet photo sessions generate proceeds that go to greyhound rescue services.
For a little one-on-one care, Strong keeps dog and cat
food on hand in her car to pass out to homeless folks with
pets, and she donates pet food to a local mission pantry.
Old Town events also are embraced.
“Every year, the Thunder Valley Rally comes to Old
Town,” she says. “It’s like a mini Sturgis [Motorcycle Ral-ly]. We shut down Main Street, and all the bikes come in.”
Live bands perform on the street, and vendors ply
their wares from booths. At Pawz on Main, attendees
browse a selection of Harley Davidson vests, harnesses
and hats that even the toughest four-legged biker would
find irresistible. Doggles eyewear complete the look.
Advertisements in several local newspapers, social
media postings, and a monthly newsletter keep custom-
ers apprised of store happenings and up-to-date on recalls
or manufacturing facility issues, as well as provide nutri-
Strong also cites word-of-mouth as vital to the success
of her establishment.
“Word-of-mouth has been phenomenal for my business,” she says. “Customers go to the dog park and their
pet is wearing one of my harnesses or its coat is so healthy
and shiny, and people ask questions. Then they come to