“I’d like to think I’m Declan’s employee. My shop cat rules the roost. ” Will Sheppard, owner of Sheppard’s Pet Supply located at 4410 4th AVE S. in Avondale, shared with us what it’s like to own a pet store and run a small business in Birmingham.
I was born and raised here in Birmingham, but I did a nice stint in New Orleans up until Katrina, when I moved to higher ground. Denver was home for a year before moving back here. Home.
I used to be a realtor, and I was constantly asked where the closest pet supply store was. Sadly, there wasn’t one, and I saw an opening for this opportunity. The Crestwood/Avondale area, as well as Forest Park/Highland areas are filled with people who treat their pets as well as their children. I get to see the love these folks hold for their pets every day.I opened in October, 2015 in Crestwood, but moved down the street to Avondale in mid 2016. It’s been a wild ride!
I specialize in dog/cat foods and toys, but I can order almost anything that anyone needs. Chicken feed is still a challenge. I knew when I opened, I wanted to carry several lines of food which were at the top of their game. Orijen, Acana, and Fromm are my main lines, but I also carry Natural Balance, Taste of the Wild, Blue Buffalo, and Zignature. I can order pretty much anything else, and I have a great group of regulars who have standing orders with me. My most unusual products are duck feet and bull penis, of course!
Something I’d like folks to know about my business is that, for one, I’m present. You know, I’d never had a brick & mortar before, and it’s amazing how much it changes you. Is it perfect? No. But I will say that what I want people to know about my business is that people want me to succeed. The neighborhoods around me genuinely are excited about the little guy, and that makes it all worthwhile.
The hardest thing about being a small business owner is standing on your feet on the hard concrete, all day long. But in all seriousness, the one thing I hear about opening a business is there isn’t a guide to tell you what to do. You have to tread those waters alone, and it take a certain patience to know you’re doing it correctly. If I could do it again, I would keep a diary of how I did it to help the next business.
Birmingham has changed so much since I moved back 10 years ago. While many of my hopes have been realized, I know we have so long to go. I’ll request that our city invest in small businesses and not make it so difficult to succeed. It’s hard. We don’t need our city working against us.
Besides having my shop cat, Declan, I think the most rewarding thing about being a small business owner is there’s a camaraderie with local business owners, much like any service industry folk. We honestly want to know everything is ok, and if it isn’t, how can we improve. I think every small business owner should be on the same team and refer people to others if one can’t meet the needs of another. It all comes back. Thanks for listening.
Check out Sheppard’s Pet Supply at: https://www.facebook.com/SheppardsPetSupply/