Randy Koster likes to think of his store as an old-fashioned hardware store.
That is to say, a place customers can come in for a product and leave with a little know-how from expert employees on the same visit.
Except at , where Koster is manager, it isn't nuts and bolts — its biscuits and bedding.
The store, located along Route 53 next to in the out lot, is one of the few businesses that hasn't seen a significant downturn in sales because of the recession.
Because of that, Koster says the store qualifies as a local success story.
“Business is great, even in this economy we have and we are growing. People really don’t skimp out on their pets. They’re part of the family,” he said.
Today’s pet owners are much more educated and concerned about their pet’s health and well-being than ever before, Koster said.
“We’re not the big box,” Koster said. “They (big-box retailers) can get lost in what customer service really is.”
There are 20 stores in the Chicago area, including the location and two in Naperville.
The company began in Detroit and most of its stores are on the East Coast. But even though the company is corporately owned, the Bolingbrook store makes every effort to stay in touch locally.
“We try to be involved in the community,” Koster said. “We sponsor baseball teams, softball teams, walk-athons and the dog park at .”
The location also holds an annual in June, which includes festivities such as blow-up obstacle courses, vendors, K-9 units and last year, Koster said, the radio station 95.9 The River did a 12-hour broadcast from the store.
Bolingbrook's also offers low-cost vaccination clinics every third Wednesday of the month, nail trims every second Tuesday and a rescue group that usually meets each Saturday to try to find homes for unwanted pets.
They don’t sell puppies or kittens, but they do have small pets like guinea pigs and bunnies, as well as reptiles and aquarium fish and supplies.
So what is the one product every canine companion should have?
The Kong toy, Koster says. It's a heavy duty, hollow, rubber chew toy that owners can put treats into and let the dogs figure out how to get them out — kind of like Sudoku for dogs.
And for cats? Koster recommends a kitty condo, or some type of feline furniture upon which they may hide, sleep, climb or scratch.
And if you just want to stop in and talk pets, there’s no better place to find like-minded people for tips and tricks.