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Santa Maria Sun / Biz Spotlight

The following article was posted on April 24th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 7 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 7

Spotlight on: The Animal Kingdom Pet Shop

Adam Tipton, co-owner


If Adam Tipton is the king of The Animal Kingdom Pet Shop, then the animals his wife Mickie and he have been selling for 19 years are the princes and princesses. Of all the pet shops that dot the cities and neighborhoods of California, only a select few have the clear, open layout, the spotless holding and display areas for animals, and the helpful staff of this shop. In their new location at the Santa Maria Town Center, which has been open for a month, the Tiptons brought the same refined presentation from their other store in Grover Beach. It was a visit to the latter store by the mall’s new owners that began the process of expanding the Tiptons’ business into the mall. Needless to say, the mall’s owners were impressed.

In addition to the years of experience in the pet business the Tiptons have accumulated, both studied animal science at Cal Poly, giving them a unique specialization for their work.

“I’ve had animals my entire life and have really enjoyed them … so I [went] to school for animal-related business,” Adam said.

His wife was the first to get into the pet business: “My wife had [sold pets] with her sister at the swap meet as a part-time business. Back in 1995 she had gotten laid off from her job and so we decided it was a good time to try it out.”

Nearly 20 years later, while reopening a remodeled third location in Pismo Beach this May, the Tiptons can be assured of their success.

As with most small businesses, though, success comes with a price. Adam said he’s working 12-hour days, seven days a week in Santa Maria and that his wife is doing the same in Grover Beach. All of that hard work is apparent, especially in the professional storefront and display spaces inside that better the chance for that “puppy in the window” appeal.

“It took us a long time to come up with the layout. We spent a fair amount of time just laying it out to make sure that the flow was correct, but also to make sure that everything was visible and comfortable when [customers] walked in as well,” Adam said. “It was a gigantic portion of what we did.”

Above all, he stressed the importance of balance between the different sections of the store.

Adam also underlined how hard his employees work: “It’s a different job for the employee, because of the fact that a lot of them come in with the concept that they’re going to pet and hold and feel everything and it’s a lot of work. Once they get in and get through their first six weeks, I think that they realize that a lot of that work really pays off for them and they really start to enjoy it. They go home and they’re probably tired at night, but I think that they feel they gave a good effort for the day in order to keep the pets happy and safe and healthy.”

Including people caring for the animals and selling products, the Tiptons employ about 30 people.

Above all, Adam considers matching customers and pets as the most important task for his business: “We spend a lot of time making sure that we get the right pets with the right folks. This is like adding a member of the family to them. And so [the pet shop] is one of those situations that … gives the customers the opportunity to look at different things as opposed to just going to somebody’s house and looking at a specific type of dog.”

To make the right matches, the Tiptons try to carry a wide variety of dogs and even have a wish list at each store for certain dog breeds. They source their dogs locally and from inside and outside California to meet demand.

While Adam considers dogs to be the focus, the shop also carries other traditional pet shop animals: “We carry kittens, birds, small animals like the rats, mice, hamsters, and then in this store we’ve ventured into the reptiles as well.”

The Tiptons even carry some seasonal animals like chicks. Having this variety is important, given the number of rival businesses.

“There really is a lot of competition, and so it’s a matter of just making sure you carve out the niche that sets you apart from somebody else,” he said.

While Adam noted that chains sometimes offer better pricing on certain items, he added, “We try to value service and helping [customers] find the right item.”

As with their other locations, Santa Maria has been a big success so far: “Business has been really good in Santa Maria. I’ve been pleasantly surprised. We have had a very warm greeting from the community. We’ve met a lot of people and I think that we will be here a long time.”

When asked what he liked most about running the new location, he said, “Really the day-to-day interaction with both the people and the animals as a mix. I think it really allows [the work] to balance out. It’s one of those situations [where] you meet tons of really, really nice people and it’s kind of exciting … to pair them up with a new pet.”

The Animal Kingdom is at 146 Town Center East in Santa Maria. For more information, call 314-2101. m

Biz Spotlight was written and compiled by Intern Frank Gonzales. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, e-mail, or mail.