Audrey Love

Petsense celebrated its grand opening Oct. 6 with just as many animals as it did humans.

The chain pet supply store marked its official welcome to the La Grande community with a “Day of Doggy (and Kitty) Love” in partnership with Blue Mountain Humane Association and other local businesses posted in and around the
La Grande Town Center location on Island Avenue.

Based on Saturday’s well-received event and the amount of business since the location’s soft opening on Oct. 2, the store’s manager, Mandi Parker, projects continued success.

“Everybody has been so welcoming and receptive to us being here. We’ve had nothing but positive responses,” Parker said. “We’ve been a lot busier than I projected we would be because we didn’t advertise (the soft opening), but it’s been nonstop customers.”

Petsense plans to partner with local animal shelters such as La Grande’s Blue Mountain Humane Association, and potentially with PAWS (Pendleton Animal Welfare Shelter) and Best Friends of Baker, to offer cat adoption through their in-store “Sav a Pet” program and to promote monthly adoption events, as well as two major company-wide adoption events throughout the year.

For Saturday’s event, Blue Mountain Humane Association brought a number of their adoption-ready shelter dogs, wrangled by student volunteers from EOU athletics. BMHA also set up a “doggy calendar photo shoot” to help fundraise for building improvements to its animal rescue facility.

“I want everyone to see the dogs we have and spread the word,” said Jaimee Morrison, Blue Mountain Humane Association volunteer and event coordinator for the “Day of Doggy (and Kitty) Love.” “I want people to want to come down to the shelter, even if it’s just to hang out with the dogs for an hour. That’s what those dogs need — for people to come give them love, even if they can’t take them home.”

Currently, BMHA has 11 dogs available for adoption as well as a number of cats. Adoption fees are $195 for spayed/neutered dogs and $170 for non spayed/neutered dogs, and includes two vaccinations and deworming. Cat adoption fees are $85 for spayed/neutered cats and $35 for non spayed/neutered. The facility also houses lost animals and animals surrendered by their owner(s).

Petsense’s partnership with the local shelter is the first of many outreach efforts the business hopes to make — another being with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department’s dog park at Riverside Park. Parker emphasized the store’s desire to be an asset to the community, whether through more partnerships or helping out in other ways, saying the company “really likes being involved (and) wants to be here for the community.”

The City of La Grande announced Petsense’s opening this summer. The city’s Economic Development office had been working with the company since spring 2017, when it was identified by the Buxton Company as a good fit for the area. Buxton, which has contracted with the city’s Urban Renewal Agency to provide viable economic development opportunities for the city to pursue, determined the pet chain could potentially thrive in La Grande.

“I wanted to be involved with a store I wasn’t worried about closing down,” Parker said. “We’ve had so many stores come into town (and later close) or the market is already oversaturated. This seemed like something that was different.”

The store encompasses pet care of all kinds — from cats and dogs to birds, reptiles and fish — and offers an array of pet supplies and services, including grooming. Though the store doesn’t sell cats or dogs, tinier creatures such as bearded dragons, leopard geckos and betta fish are available in-store.

“We don’t have anything else (in La Grande) that caters more to small-pet supplies,” Parker said. “We have a wide variety (at Petsense), where a lot of other stores are more limited on what they actually have to offer because they’re a bigger retail space, whereas we specialize in all that.”

“I project us staying around. I see us growing with the community and really being able to help out with the animal issues we have around here, especially with adoption,” Parker said of the store’s initial success. “We’ve had good sales so far. We’re really impressed.”