When David Bovard opened Pioneer Pet Feed & Supply in a small underground space in the neighborhood, it quickly became a local gem. We decided to talk shop with David to find out why he chose Pioneer Square and what’s behind the great mix of atmosphere and pet love at his shop:
When did Pioneer Pet open? Why did you choose Pioneer Square as a location?
The shop’s grand opening was June 6, 2012, the anniversary of the Great Seattle Fire. That date wasn’t specifically chosen, circumstances dictated it and it seemed like a great day to open. I find the story of the Great Seattle Fire and the changes brought forth by that event fascinating, which is part of the reason why I chose Pioneer Square to open Pioneer Pet Feed and Supply. As a Seattleite I have spent plenty of time recreationally enjoying Pioneer Square, and it was clear to me there were a lot of people with dogs in the neighborhood and presumably cats and not a single pet store within a mile and a half in any direction. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t all romance and fascination with history that brought me to Pioneer Square, a good portion of it was practicality. Pioneer Square has many beautiful antique retail spaces that have been sitting dormant for years going unnoticed. An affordable underground space in the bowels of the St. Charles Hotel on S. Washington St. got my notice. And I am very very grateful it’s gotten the neighborhood’s notice too.
Are you from Seattle? What do you like about the city and Pioneer Square in particular?
I moved to Seattle from Juneau Alaska back in 1999. After all this time I proudly consider myself a Seattleite. I enjoy the fact that as diverse and large as the city can seem it really feels like a small town in a lot of ways. I love the fact that there are so many businesses that have been in Seattle for years. I like the history Pioneer Square has to offer and I love the architecture that’s reminiscent of that history. I think the fact that Pioneer Square has a bit of a bad reputation make it very endearing to me also because I know what a gem that it really is and I enjoy the sense of community that comes from others who have that same sense of pride of the neighborhood. Plainly put: I love Seattle and Pioneer Square is badass.
What kind of pet food and supplies do you focus on at Pioneer Pet?
Without answering this question and sounding like an endorsement of any one particular brand I will tell you that I don’t stock out my shelves based necessarily on what’s currently the latest fad or what’s popular. It certainly would be a lot easier to carry the current trends and brands but I like to put a little bit more thought into what I offer pet owners. Companies that have been in business for decades whose sole purpose is making pet foods or products catch my attention. I strive to stock the shelves with as many local products as possible rather than have a perplexing amount of products to choose from – I like to distill things down into some great choices. I carry enough different product that I think a person can live right next door to a local chain or big-box pet store and still find something different every time they come in the shop with me. I do acknowledge there are many products on the market and I do my best to make special orders easy for customers. You might be surprised how helpful this is for some people. Even though I love to shop for the store, ultimately pet owners have the say in what they like to feed their animals and I’m always happy to accommodate that.
What led you to open Pioneer Pet? How did you get into the pet supply business?
That’s easy: my dog. Irko was his name. I had him 13 of his 15 years. I had originally adopted him from Seattle Animal Shelter. I was a first time dog owner but I knew that a dog shouldn’t have such awful digestion. I discovered a small, locally-owned pet supply store in my neighborhood and after shopping there for some time and learning the power of healthy pet foods I ended up working for the owner. I worked there off and on for about eight years. There had been many plans about becoming more involved in the business above and beyond just being a clerk. Things didn’t pan out how I imagined but it was for the best. I ventured off to try something on my own and had an opportunity to open a small pet supply store in a mixed used space on Capitol Hill. I like to say it was where the zygote of Pioneer Pet was formed. Ultimately it wasn’t a good fit and I needed to transplant into a location of my own.
Any exciting plans in store for Pioneer Pet? Or anything you want customers to know?
Speaking for the shop cats Ivar & Vito, every day is exciting at Pioneer Pet. I never want to say too much about plans for the future but I do have a great vision for a long relationship with Pioneer Square, Seattle and its many visitors. As business continues to grow customers can look forward to changes in the layout of the store and how product is presented. My main goal is to be reliable for the regulars who make it all possible. So rather than fancy gimmicks or tricks to try to garner business I’m just going to chug away at what I do best and that’s providing healthy safe food and products in a comfortably decorated Antique space. If there’s anything I would like my audience to know is that it would be much appreciated for you to spread the word about Pioneer Pet. I want customers that take the recommendation of a friend much more serious than a well-placed advertisement or coupon. Thank you for taking the time to ask me some questions about my business, I love to talk shop and I’m really proud to be the neighborhood pet shop guy. I can’t tell you how humbling it is to have the inhabitants of Pioneer Square treat me like a rock star. I will try to keep up the work. “Lick long and pawsper…”