Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal published a story about the effects of shopping online vs. shopping in our neighborhoods.
The story focuses on our own Sammy Atef of Pet’s Emporium on Montague Street; the writer is, like many of us are or were, a loyal customer, one who had so far resisted, unlike many of us, the lure of Chewy’s prices and conveniences.
Since moving to Brooklyn Heights last year, I’ve been a loyal customer at Pet’s Emporium, the little shop around the corner. And for good reason. Owner Sammy Atef memorized my order after one visit. He always offers a hugely exuberant greeting and showers my dog with treats.
But I couldn’t help notice the growing number of packages my neighbors were getting from Chewy, an online pet-food retailer. When I finally took a look, I was amazed. My preferred brand of kibble, which costs $17 a bag at Pet’s Emporium—and $16 on Amazon—costs $11.38 on Chewy.
I did the math. By choosing Chewy over Pet’s Emporium, I’d save $150 a year on Minnie’s chow.
I like Mr. Atef, but do I like him $150 worth?
It’s a horrible, horrible question.
In these very pages on more than one occasion, we’ve talked about pet food–Pet Smart vs. Heights Pets vs. Clark Pets vs. Beastly Bite. Cost vs. convenience. Shopping locally vs. saving money. I vociferously advocated for shopping locally, arguing that given the relative financial stability of many of us in the neighborhood, we could stand to pay more to support a local business…especially given the amount of time we spend bemoaning the influx of national and regional chains that denude our neighborhood of its personality and individuality.
Then: a little over a year ago, personal circumstances led to my turning to Chewy. The ease of delivery and lower prices made life manageable at a time when much felt out of control, and, I admit, I didn’t mind saving money and not having to schlep cat food and litter home. This despite the many times Sammy had given me free samples of food to use for shelter cats and rescues.
So you can imagine how I felt when I read…
While Mr. Atef, who has five children, has hiked prices to cover rising costs—including the high rent on Montague Street—revenue is flat, he says. He used to employ two clerks. Now, he works alone: 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
Do I look forward to spending more money on pet products? Nope. Will I do it? Yep, at least more often than I do now. Stores like Pet’s Emporium are a vanishing breed, and I’d rather pay a little more if it means that they can stick around. And as Chewy was last year purchased by behemoth PetSmart, it really does feel, now, like choosing Goliath over David to shop with Chewy, which in addition to low prices and variety does offer tremendous customer service as well.
Read the full story at the Wall Street Journal… (this story may be paywalled)
Photo of Sammy and customer Daisy is from a 2008 BHB story…to which I can’t help but respond: “Clark Pet has been there for TEN YEARS?” Lord, how time flies.