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How Chuck & Don’s Pet Stores Became The Cat’s Meow

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — All week the WCCO Morning Show is highlighting successful small businesses in Minnesota. We know so many of our viewers are up with us, because they’re getting ready to make it happen for their businesses and for their employees.

And while they’re making breakfast for themselves, they’re probably also feeding the family pet. Two Minnesota guys took their love for man’s best friends and turned it into a successful company.

Chuck and Don’s is still expanding, more than 20 years after opening their first store.

Most businesses cater to people, but this one has to also keep up with everyone’s beloved pets.

“You come to Chuck and Don’s and you get all the service you want,” owner Chuck Anderson said.

The company is now also trying to match demand.

“Our big, hairy audacious goal is to grow to 90 or 100 stores,” Anderson said.

Right now the company has 20 in Minnesota and five in Denver. The company employs almost 300 people.

While the road to success has been a long one, the idea for the store started as a simple one — Chuck and Don loved dogs.

Anderson and his wife started the Animal Inn Boarding Kennel in Lake Elmo, Minn. in 1972 and eventually started training dogs.

“We borrowed everything we could, took the cash value out of our life insurance, out of our house,” Anderson said.

Meanwhile, Don Tauer was breeding and raising German Shepherds. In 1990, the two best friends decided to open up their own store in Eagan to give their best friends better food.

Now their stores offer more than 50 brands of food and novelty items. And it’s high-end food — bags can cost anywhere from $49 to $100.

“Sometimes people spend more on their dogs and cats then they do their kids,” Anderson said.

Anderson believes the real reason for the store’s success is because employees are committed to customer service. That could be because they’re often customers, too.

“Ninety to 95 percent of our employees own pets,” Anderson said.

While that helps the business’ bottom line, the store is also committed to something else.

“We do a tremendous amount of fundraising for the dog and cat community,” Anderson said.

In the past year, the company has given close to a quarter of $1 million to charity and often has animals up for adoption in stores.

By the way, Tauer retired from the retail pet supply business in 2000 but still runs the Animal Inn Boarding Kennel that started it all in Lake Elmo.

Robert Hartzell is the current president and CFO. He has ties to the Denver area, which is how they tapped into the market there.

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