In the 26 years since Brian Conneally opened his pet store on Vanderbilt Avenue, he’s been asked about everything from what to do for a dog’s dry skin to how to stop a cat from throwing up.
But the most notable question came this winter, from a man who asked if he carried supplies to build a dogsled for his husky.
“In 26 years I’ve never heard that question,” he said.
Conneally opened on Vanderbilt Avenue between Park and Prospect places in 1985 with business partner Thomas Kurahara.
A 51-year-old Park Slope native, Conneally studied engineering at Pratt Institute. While he was in college he worked at the former Critter Fritters on Seventh Avenue, and when that store closed, he and co-worker Kurahara decided to take a stab at opening their own place.
Although both men lived in Park Slope, Conneally on Carroll Street and Kurahara on Polhemus Place, they decided to open their store in Prospect Heights.
“When I was doing home deliveries (at Critter Critters) I was going to people’s houses and seeing a lot of renovating. People were renovating and fixing up the buildings. Things were happing over here,” he said.
“We found this store and one thing led to another and 26 years later we’re still plugging away,” he said.
And in the 26 years that Conneally has run the shop, how have things changed?
“This industry just keeps coming out with more and more products. Everyday people ask me for things I’ve never heard of or don’t stock. I have 20 brands of cat food, 20 brands of dog food, frozen, raw food,” he said.
“One salesman told me there are 1,500 brands. When I started there were maybe six. … The quality has gotten better and the ingredients have gotten better,” he added.
And as for how he likes running his own business? It has its advantages, he said.
“I do have job security. I know a number of guys who I grew up who are forever changing jobs, getting laid off. At least I don’t have to worry about getting fired,” he said.
Conneally says he’s not concerned about competition from new online sites such as the recently started Wag.com. “This is a service business. If you’re going to buy things just based on price you might find a better price online, but nobody can compete with the service we give you,” he said.
If you stop by the store, you’re likely to see Conneally behind the counter, or Julie Wong, who has worked there for eight years. You’ll also see Lefty, their Akita, and cats Louie (a six-toed Hemingway cat) and Knuckles.
“We get people in come in here daily just to pet the cats,” he said.
And the name of the shop? Did the partners choose it to be first in the phone book?
“We liked the Road Runner cartoons when we were growing up. Wiley Coyote was my favorite character,” he said.