Kimberly Loper, photo credit Nancy E. Hassel
Q: How did you get to the North Fork?
A: Back in 2010 we launched a dog treat line, and the gentleman who previously owned Harbor Pet was one of my customers. When I was delivering to him in 2014, he told me the store for sale and I told him I wanted it. The rest was history.
Q: So Harbor Pet is an outgrowth of your homemade dog treat business. What got you started in dog treats?
A: Years ago, in my 20s ,I started baking dog treats for my dogs and friends’ dogs. I did it just as a hobby and a love for my dogs. Then I started selling them at farmers’ markets, under the brand “Life is Grruff”, and then it kept building. We sold at markets and stores from Montauk to Great Neck.
Q: Tell me about your Life is Grruff treats.
A: They’re all natural, made with human-grade ingredients. We offer eleven different flavors as well a few that are wheat-free. We also make over 100 different decorated treats that change throughout the year. We recently launched a birthday cake line—special occasion cakes for your dogs.
We also launched a new treat called Grrowlers that incorporates the spent grains from Greenport Harbor Brewing Co.
Q: What made you scale up to a full service store?
A: The store was a natural progression—I was in retail previously, with my family’s business, which was a garden center. After my parents sold the business that’s when I started selling my dog treats at the farmers' markets. I thought I’d never do retail again, but I love it.
People who have dogs, cats & pets are 99.9% happy people. And the location is great. Being in an area that has a lot of locals, seasonal homeowners, and tourists makes for an interesting day, and a great customer base.
Q: Does Harbor Pet serve all types of pets? What do you offer besides dog treats?
A: Our store is concentrated on dogs and cats; we may expand to include a couple of other small animals, but even then will remain predominantly cats and dogs. We have toys, bowls, beds, collars and leashes, treats, food, coats, and sweaters. We also do grooming and hourly boarding, for people who want to shop but have their dog with them, with our services they can leave their dog with us and go have lunch, dinner, or shop.
Q: Why are pets your passion?
A: I grew up on ten acres on the south shore, and we always had dogs and cats wander on and off. We rescued a lot of them, and always had Newfoundlands. Currently I have two dogs, one is a black lab named Trooper and the other one is a Cane Corso Mastiff named Tank.
I think it’s the unconditional love. No matter what, dogs are always happy to see you. There’s a saying out there: I don’t need therapy, I have a dog. And that’s so true in that it’s so nice to just have someone love you like that, a dog will love you more than it loves itself. Cats are similar. Yes, they’re more independent and fussy, but they also offer that great comfort for people not to be alone.
Q: So you’re relatively new to being a Greenport shopkeeper. Are you involved in the community in any way?
A: Yes. We like to participate in fundraisers for the community and good causes. For example we’ve teamed up with Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. for the First Annual North Fork Dock Diving event. And we participate in many of the Greenport events the Business Improvement District does.
Q: What’s a Dock Diving event?
A: We set up a big swimming pool, and dogs can win prizes for jumping the furthest, the highest, etc. The money we raise will benefit American Legion, North Fork Animal Welfare League and Canine Companions. It’s a free event for the community; we’ll raise money through sponsorships.
Blue Buffalo is one major sponsor already; at the event they’ll be handing out samples and educating people about animal health and safety. Greenport Harbor Brewing is co-organizing with us. What’s better than dogs and beer? Mark your calendar, because that’s happening next May 20-21.
Q: So you offer homemade dog treats, do charity events; and Greenport’s gentrified a fair amount—Front Street now has a Calypso. Are you a high end niche pet store?
A: No. I’m a mom and pop hometown store for the locals—I’m not Calypso. Not that Calypso’s bad, it just has a different customer and price structure. Unfortunately I don’t think people realize that. In fact a customer the other day was shocked by how reasonable our prices were, saying wow, that’s cheaper than Petco! (She was buying bully sticks, a kind of dog treat.)
Q: Any changes coming in the year ahead?
A: A few. We’re launching a rewards & loyalty program. For every dollar spent, you get a point, and points turn into dollars back in the store and other discounts. We’re mailing locals postcards about this program shortly. Also, in the coming year we hope to offer classes and overnight boarding.