You may have noticed all the commotion on the northwest corner of Ella Boulevard and 42nd Street last weekend. Nestled in the retail center were colorful signs, a wading pool full of pet toys, and leashed, live puppies playing among the many people coming and going.
The party was to celebrate the opening of Natural Pawz pet foods, and pet owners throughout the community are delighted. What has our neighbors so jazzed about pet food? Natural Pawz features locally produced, nutritious, organic foods. With the Oak Forest opening, the company is celebrating its 17th Houston-area location and its 12th birthday.
“It’s our first day, and we have been crazy busy. We love Oak Forest, it’s so beautiful, and this store may be our busiest yet!” said store manager Elizabeth Sacco during the party.
“Americans know that a healthy diet helps people live longer,” explained Biff Picone, co-owner and Founder of Natural Pawz. “And people know the same is true for pets. A healthy diet with quality ingredients and fewer fillers, helps prevent the increasing a number of diseases we see in our pets: diabetes, cancer and more. Nutrition has the same benefits for our furry family as it does us.”
Picone and his wife and business partner, Nadine Joli-Coeur, discovered this first hand. In 2001, the couple adopted a chocolate Labrador Retriever named Callie. Soon, Callie started suffering from food allergies that caused hair loss, hot spots and severe itching.
“We took Callie to the veterinarian and started her on steroid shots. It helped, but she needed the shot about every six weeks. One day the vet said, ‘You know, each time I give your dog this shot, I am shortening her life,” explained Picone.
I said, ‘Put that needle down!’ Then we left and never returned,” stated co-owner and Founder Nadine Joli-Coeur.
The couple decided to experiment and adjust the dog’s diet but their choices of foods were limited to companies which utilize fillers. After research, they found a small pet food business specializing in whole, organic ingredients and very little fillers such as the corn, or even peanut shells found in larger company foods. With this change, Callie’s symptoms improved.
“Natural Pawz grew organically,” said Joli-Coeur. “It happened through word-of-mouth. By 2005, so many people were seeing positive outcomes and wanted the same products we were feeding Callie, we started to view making the pets foods as a sort of calling. Biff and I left our tech jobs and went to work at Natural Pawz full-time.”
Other features offered at Natural Pawz are its pet baked goods. These wonderful treats are created by locally owned Doggie Express, and each is dairy-free, gluten-free, human-grade, and organic. Stop by for a pint of almond milk-based peanut butter-banana-bacon ice cream, or a delicious “pupcake.”
“Most of our customers buy treats for both their pets and themselves,” stated Doggie Express owner Kelly Long with a smile. (We tried a cranberry oatmeal doggie treat, and we know for a fact she is correct. It was divine.)
Natural Pawz also takes pride in being a good citizen of the community. There is always something going on. “We like to give local pet rescues a place to meet the public and adopt out pets,” said manager Sacco. “And sometimes we hold ‘doga’ classes. That’s yoga with dogs. Readers can check on our website to see our activities on the calendar.”
So stop by, say hi, and grab a cup of catnip for Fluffy, or a pupcake for Rover. And don’t forget at least one cranberry oatmeal treat for the road.