A Natural Evolution

Katie Pottenger, owner of Parker’s in Chicago, explains how she has worked to evolve her pet boutique’s brand since it opened seven years ago.

The Pet Elite: What inspired you to get into the pet boutique business?
Katie Pottenger: I gained a passion for pet nutrition when my dog Parker, the store namesake, was a puppy and I was in college. I was feeding him grocery store brand kibble, and he was always sickly. Many months of testing later, veterinarians told me that they didn’t think he would survive. I did my own research and realized that his problems all stemmed from the foods he was eating. I threw myself into learning about pet foods and pet nutrition and started him on grain-free kibble, then raw food, and he hasn’t been sick a day since. 

When I came home from college, I was driving a half-hour or more through Chicago to pick up food and accessories for Parker, I realized there was a need for a pet boutique in Hyde Park—the neighborhood I grew up in—and I opened Parker’s a year and a half later.

TPE: Can you tell us a bit about Parker’s history and how it has changed since you opened it?
Pottenger: When I opened Parker’s we carried half pet food and half high-end clothes and accessories. Since the economy has changed, Parker’s has changed with it. In 2011, we expanded into the store next door, making the square footage 4,000, and we re-branded the store from Parker’s Pets to Parker’s with the tagline “a natural dog and cat market” to showcase our transition into a store with everything you need for your dog or cat.

TPE: What are some of the store’s distinguishing features?
Pottenger: One of the features our customers talk about the most is what we call Raw Food Island. We have two double-door glass freezers and two stand-up freezers in the shape of a U near our cash wrap. It really encourages talking about raw food, what it is and its benefits with customers. We are also constantly changing not only displays, but product locations. It not only keeps the store fresh, it keeps customers seeing new products and even products we have carried for a while that they may have missed. Our wall of dry dog foods is a big feature as well. It’s a custom-made wood shelving unit that we recently painted with chalkboard paint. It allows us to feature information about the foods, the companies and dog care tips.

TPE: What role do Parker’s services play in not only generating sales but also enhancing your brand experience? 
Pottenger: I want Parker’s to be a one-stop shop for all of a pet’s needs. I want my customers to know that when they come into Parker’s, they will not only get products they know they can trust and great customer service, but they’ll also get quality positive-reinforcement training, amazing grooming, a well-set-up self wash and more.

TPE: How does Parker’s strive to keep loyal customers while gaining new ones? 
Pottenger: We have one of the best loyalty programs around. We offer our customers $25 in store credit for every $250 spent on non-food items and frequent buyer programs on all of our foods. We also have a robust marketing strategy, which includes Facebook, Instagram, email marketing, presence on delivery apps, TV appearances and locally run commercials. We also have large events four-to-five times a year and smaller monthly gatherings.

TPE: What does the future hold for Parker’s?
Pottenger: Parker’s is ever-evolving to best meet the needs of our customers and to stay on trend. We’re embracing more technology and have some big plans in that area.  

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