By LOIS KINDLE
Jill Scott didn’t know the rescue of a Chinese-crested-Chihuahua mix pup from an Alabama puppy mill would lead her into an entirely new business venture.
“My mother actually ‘stole’ the puppy from the mill and took him home with her,” Scott said. “But my dad died shortly after, and she was forced to move to an apartment, where she couldn’t keep the dog.”
So guess what?
Scott took “Buddy” in, he became “the love of her life” and his care over the next couple of years led her to open a pet store.
When he lost his puppy hair, none grew back, said Scott, an Apollo Beach resident and owner of Home Port Gallery. She visited numerous veterinarians to no avail.
“He was completely bald, so I decided to take matters into my own hands,” Scott said. “I did some research, changed his food to a high-quality, grain-free kibble and within six months, he had a luxurious coat.”
Inspired by Buddy’s progress, Scott set out to learn everything she could about how a pet’s diet, supplements, toys and environment affect its health and well-being.
When she was unable to find the products, she trusted in local retailers or tried them out if they were available online. Scott became convinced her only recourse was to open Bark & Purr.
“I wanted to offer the same top-quality products for dogs and cats to area residents as I would provide my own pets at very reasonable prices,” she said.
Her “persnickety pet emporium” opened March 26 in the Waterside Shops of Apollo Beach at 6138 U.S. 41 N., Apollo Beach. Its grand-opening celebration with the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce will be April 25 at 3 p.m.
Knowledgeable, warm and filled with humor, Scott enjoys chatting with customers and helping them care for their pets. She’s hired two wild-about-pets employees: her daughter, Linelle, aka “the cat whisperer,” and former Blue Pearl veterinary technician Jessica Glen, Scott’s “resident expert.”
Bark & Purr features a colorful assortment of sturdy, yet comfortable, leashes, collars and harnesses for dogs; interactive play toys; and safety items like booster seats for automobiles with their own seat belts. The store also carries an array of healthy chews, treats, puppy starter kits, the complete line of Fromm foods and some Zignature products, plus specialty items like Park Hill candles, Bark n Bag carriers, urns, ThunderShirts, hemp products, greeting cards and more.
“Dogs of different sizes have different needs and personalities, so I’m trying to carry items appealing to them all,” Scott said. “I encourage tasting of foods and treats.”
Scott’s in-house bakery is filled with human-grade, gluten-free, grain-free products she bakes daily.
“My Aunt Cindy has tasted all my treats, and she gives them all a thumbs-up,” Scott said. “I love to cook. I love to bake. When your children move out, what else do you do?”
Cats count, too, at Bark & Purr.
“Because cats are fussy, when I find something healthy they like, I stock it,” Scott said.
She carries Boxiecat all-natural, scent-free, premium clumping-clay cat litter, which is 99.9 percent dust-free, eliminates odor and clumps and scoops easily.
She also features Market Fresh, Almo Nature and the complete line of Fromm’s cat foods, Meowijuana products, bed trees, kitty starter kits and interactive toys. More items are on the way.
Scott is open to suggestions and advice from area pet owners on other items she can carry in the store and is willing to place special orders. Pets are always welcome, if leashed or in a carrier.
“You can extend your dog or cat’s life and enhance its life experience by feeding it high-quality food, introducing a safe lifestyle and providing enriching activities,” Scott said. “Everything I carry is something I would give or use with my own pets.”
The store’s website, www.myhappypup.com, is under construction. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 813-773-7553.