Interview with Bethany Stockman of Laconia Pet Center

 Dog Walker Cat Sitter Laconia Gilford Meredith Belmont Lake Winnipesaukee Lake Winnisquam Lake Opechee Weirs Beach Lakes Region New Hampshire

I recently had the opportunity to grab lunch at Jon’s Roast Beef & Deli with Bethany Stockman of Laconia Pet Center in Laconia, New Hampshire. I took the opportunity to interview her for our new interview series featuring locally owned and operated Lakes Region pet businesses. We’ll be asking each business the same 6 questions.

How did Laconia Pet Center get started?

 Bethany (in red) with some of her employees at Halloween.

Bethany (in red) with some of her employees at Halloween.

It began in Malden, Massachusetts in 1968 where my dad bought a fish only store called King’s Exotic Fish. My parents moved that business to New Hampshire in 1974 to downtown Laconia. They were downtown for a few years before they bought land on Union Avenue in 1979/80 and built the current building we are in. That’s how it began! 

It originally began as a hobby for dad. He was always into animals. He adopted a stray dog named, Lucky as a kid. He had a crow that he rescued and nursed back to health. He had fish tanks. He met my mom, who didn't necessarily share his passion for animals, but she was into being organized. She was, I don’t want to say the brains behind the business, but she kept numbers straight and did all that stuff. Dad got to tend to the fish and do the projects.

How did you come to take over the store?

I was born!

 Bethany and Brett as children at Laconia Pet Center.

Bethany and Brett as children at Laconia Pet Center.

Do you and Brett own it now?

Yup! We bought the business 8 years ago. It’s the only job Brett and I have ever had. Brett did have a little part-time job in high school at Radio Shack. I’ve never worked anywhere else! When you say you have been doing your job for 40 years, people look at me like I’m crazy. No seriously, since the day I was born I was in a pet store. There are pictures of me standing inside an empty fish tank for people to get an idea of how big is this fish tank. I grew up in it, I literally grew up in it.

That’s so cool!

What makes Laconia Pet Center unique?

The customer service is better than anything they will find at any other pet store that’s in our area. We have an amazing team of people here to help you with all of your pet-related questions. Collectively we have over 70 years of experience! In addition, if we happen to not know an answer we will get it for you.  We won't be satisfied with saying "we don't know"  We also offer special ordering.  If you want an item, chances are very, very good we can get it. There’s no additional charge for the special order. 

The amount of networking within the industry that we have, the contacts in the industry that we have and the fact that we are not just owners of the store but that we operate the store. We are in it every single day. You can come in there and you will see either Brett or me there. Unless we took a vacation or went to a trade show, chances are one of us is there.

We offer free carryout from the store. So if you buy something heavy and you are wondering, “How am I going to get this in my car?”. We will gladly carry it out for you.

Finally, we have a VIP Club - for every dollar you spend you get 1 point and when you reach 250 points you get a $10 reward certificate. There is a mobile app you can check your points total on your phone and can see our rewards promotions right on your phone!

What community events or charitable contributions do you participate in?

We do Round Up for Charity. 501c3 groups can contact us and every time people come into our store and make a purchase the customer is asked if they want to round up to the next whole dollar amount. You spend $5.99, we’re going to ask you if you want to round up to $6 and that penny goes to whoever happens to be the charity of the month. 

Charities can fill out a form on our website. It is actually something I would like to see more involvement with. On average, we raise about $600 a month. Franklin Animal Shelter did really well with promoting it to all of their members and ended up getting $1,000 check via Round Up for Charity. I’d like to see more charities participating. Some of the charities we have helped in the past are NH Humane Society, Conway Humane Society when they took in the Great Danes from Wolfeboro, Pet Tails Rescue of Northwood, Lakes Region Humane Society of Ossipee, and a Cat Spay-Neuter Program run by Carol Laflamme. As of now, we only accept animal-related charities but are open to other organizations if our customers really wanted it.

What’s new or upcoming at the store that customers can look forward to?

 The brand new DIY Dog Wash at Laconia Pet Center.

The brand new DIY Dog Wash at Laconia Pet Center.

The newest thing is the Do It Yourself Dog Wash. That is brand new! We have an elevated tub, hot and cold water, a professional groomer style dryer in an enclosed room. Customers can schedule right online at the website. It’s $15 for an hour and if you can wash 3 dogs in an hour you can wash three dogs for $15. You bring your own brush and toenail clippers if you want to do that. We provide the shampoo, the towels, the dryer, the tub. The best part is they can leave the mess behind. No need to dirty up your bathroom and have fur flying everywhere! Leave the fur with us! The room has a sliding glass door on it, so you don’t have to worry that your dog will get away and roam around the store. You can book up to 2 hours at a time. You can bring your own shampoo if you have a favorite or a medicated shampoo you need to use otherwise we provide the shampoo.

 Hope the cat of Laconia Pet Center

Hope the cat of Laconia Pet Center

What is something you think people would be surprised to learn about you or the store?

Probably that Brett and I are not husband and wife! It’s funny because most people assume that we are. I think partly because they know Laconia Pet Center was owned by our parents. Then they see a male and a female and I think they just naturally assume that it’s a husband and wife combination, because how many businesses do you know that it's siblings that run the business in the same building, every day,  together? So the fact that we are siblings, I think would surprise a lot of people!

 Maxine Macaw of Laconia Pet Center

Maxine Macaw of Laconia Pet Center

The Pets of Laconia Pet Center

Next time you stop in be sure to say hello to their resident pets! Maxine Macaw will be celebrating her 26th birthday in March. They have had her since she was 6 weeks old! Hope, the cat, has been at the store for 12 years. She has been known to put people and dogs alike in their place when she has had enough! And finally, Joe the piraña has been with the store for 10 years. 

Is there a local business you think would be great for our interview series? Let us know in the comments below. We'd love to feature them next.