overwhelming response from local pet lovers. As a result,
the store soon outgrew its 1,800 square feet of space.
“We realized within six months that the reaction was
beyond what we had anticipated and immediately started
looking to expand,” Vitt said. “Fortunately, the space next
door became available, and we grew to 5,000 square feet.”
A second store followed in 2011.
“We were cautious when we opened our second
store—we wanted to ensure we were not just ‘lucking
out’ to be in a good market in Dublin,” Vitt said.
In 2016, as the couple searched Central Ohio for the
perfect fit for store No. 3, they discovered three locations
meeting the traffic flow and pet owning demographics
that had proven a successful fit at the first two locations.
They took the leap.
“We felt these sites to be benchmark locations for our
business,” Vitt said.
By the end of 2016, with Mutts & Co. five locations
strong, Mark left his corporate position to be by Deborah’s side, full time, at Mutts & Co.
“It was time to join the family business,” he said. “We
had to take advantage of these opportunities before someone else did.”
STRESSING A STRESS-FREE ENVIRONMENT
Today, customers are welcomed to Mutts & Co. with a
warm, natural ambience enhanced by 150-year-old barn
wood walls and wood flooring.
“We carry natural and organic-based products and
made a conscious effort in our store design to present
an authentic, open concept, and that atmosphere is en-
hanced by our walls, fixtures and floors,” Vitt said. “It’s a
look that distinguishes us from more generic pet supply
Mutts & Co.’s signature kennel-free grooming and
unique self-serve dog washing facilities are available at
“Our grooming has been kennel free from the very
first day,” Vitt said.
Four-legged clients arriving for a coiffure are greeted
by their groomer. Expectations, along with any issues or
concerns, are discussed with the pet owner and, should
an issue arise during the course of the groom, clients are
immediately notified. A more in-depth initial consultation takes place for new customers.
“We explain the safety benefits of a kennel-free environment, including the lack of stress for the dog and
one-on-one attention,” he said.
Requests for a specific groomer are honored, and customers receive a 10-minute courtesy call when their dog
is ready for pickup. Consideration is given to customers who are unable to bring their dogs in for grooming
during the workday.
“We also groom on weekends—that’s when a large
percentage of our business occurs—and offer some evening hours,” Vitt said.
At the centralized appointment center, added in 2016,
a full-time specialist fields calls and handles scheduling
for all five locations, leaving groomers and retail staff
free to concentrate on the tasks at hand.
Customer data, including notations regarding previous visits and special needs, are retained in a software
system similar to one used in hair salons, and this information is easily accessible by groomers and staff at
Do-it-yourselfers scrub away at self-serve bathing facilities, available on a walk-in basis. Safety is paramount,
and for this reason, tubs are positioned in private bays,
eliminating the potential distractions of several dogs in
one large room.
“It’s an environment that is truly less stressful for
both dog and owner,” Mark said.
While approximately 25 percent of Mutts & Co. business is allocated to grooming services, the other 75 percent comprises dog, cat, and small mammal foods, treats
Upon opening in 2007, the couple quickly realized
product demand had been underestimated.
“We needed to add capacity to product space, and, at
that point, our mantra became ‘Not every dog or cat has
to be groomed or bathed regularly, but they all need to
eat,’” Vitt said. “Our customers want their pets to con-
sume a healthy diet, and beyond food, they desire access
to all products that will support a long and prosperous
Mindful of changing needs, Mutts & Co. is always
prepared to readjust, and budgetary restrictions are tak-
en into consideration, with the inventory mix ranging
from expensive to cost effective.
“Food product demand has definitely changed over
time, and we now carry more raw, freeze-dried and
grain-free offerings,” Vitt said. “Plus, every consumer
interested in pet health should be able to afford a nu-
tritious diet, and, in our world, this can be less expen-
sive than the more traditional, brand-name, big-box
Along these lines, a frequent buyer program offers a
“buy 12 and the 13th is free” bonus.
“This benefit is available for every food in our inven-
tory, even if we must absorb the cost,” Vitt said. “It sim-
plifies the message.”
The Mutts Rewards Program allows shoppers to earn
credits and redeem rewards, and for every $200 spent, a
3 percent credit is earned toward eligible products and
Staying abreast of marketplace demands involves the
study of trends, and this attention includes the exchange
of ideas and feedback with other pet retailers through
various online message boards.
“A lot of knowledge is available through this channel,
and not just regarding new products, but best custom-er-service practices, advice on working with distributors
or recall information,” Vitt said. “Through this networking, we stay ahead of the curve, and share what we’ve
learned with staff, and, ultimately, with our customers.”
PET WELLNESS SPECIALISTS
Superlative customer service is the cornerstone to the
Mutts & Co. experience, and “pet wellness specialists”
receive extensive and ongoing training in all aspects of
pet care and nutrition. Tutelage includes one-on-one,
group and manufacturer learning opportunities.
“We strive to create an atmosphere of nutritional
knowledge for pets and want our customers to feel con-
fident in our ability to answer to their questions,” Vitt
said. “That’s the reason we spend so much time training
Further, customers are able to visit the Mutts & Co.
website’s Learning Center with queries.
“However, ultimately, our goal is face-to-face engagement with these folks so we can talk about their
needs and point them toward different nutrition options,” he said.
Pet wellness is another fundamental goal, and a local
veterinarian with mobile facilities provides a monthly
wellness clinic, including microchipping and low-cost
vaccination services, on a rotating schedule between all
Ask a Trainer sessions are held in-store, with a professional dog trainer answering basic obedience questions from community pet owners. Those wishing to
take training a step further partake of in-store training
“It’s on an on-demand basis; we provide the facility
but defer to professional dog behaviorists,” Vitt said.
Pets yearning for a forever family are offered a paw
In 2007, after an evening of holiday shopping, Audrey
Bennett’s eyes were drawn across a busy shopping center
parking lot to a gaily lit storefront.
“I thought, ‘Wow, a new dog store!’ and just had to go in,”
Enthusiastically browsing the fledgling Mutts & Co. in
Dublin, Ohio, she left with two comfy beds and an array of
enticing dog treats.
At the time, Bennett and her husband, Chris, were the
proud pet owners of a 3-month-old goldendoodle, Lucas, who
had recently joined the family as a companion to 11-year-old
Sophie, a golden retriever, who has since passed away.
“Lucas has been going to Mutts & Co. for bathing and
grooming services since the store opened and considers it
his home away from home,” she said. “When we’re out for
walks, he loves to visit the store to say ‘hi’ to everyone.”
Bennett values the one-stop-shop convenience and fre-
quents Mutts & Co. for all her pet needs. However, she named
proximity to home and self-serve bathing facilities as list
toppers, citing the design and safety of the separate bathing
bays as a key factor.
“Mutts & Co. is [within] walking distance from my house,
and after Lucas plays in the local pond during our walks, I
love the self-serve bathing facilities,” she said. “We also do all
of our pet food shopping there.”
Outstanding, knowledgeable customer service, seasoned
with that all-important personal touch, is another key attri-
bute that keeps the couple, and Lucas, coming back. In addi-
tion, the needs of the newest family member, a once-aban-
doned kitten named Cammy, are also met by Mutts & Co.
“The folks at Mutt & Co. are our friends,” she said. “They
are so sweet, always offering to help or pointing out new
treats and products. We just love that personal touch.”
HOME AWAY FROM HOME