When the Tolonen family moved to the area about eight years ago, Angela, the mother, remembers walking through downtown Farmington, looking around and wondering if the town center could accommodate a pet store. Turns out she wasn’t the only one. Pet Valu, a corporate chain of pet stores, would open in 2018.
She was, as she puts it, “kicking herself”.
But at the end of last year, Pet Valu announced the closure of its Farmington site. It wouldn’t be the only one. A victim of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to reports at the time, Pet Valu announced the closure of 358 stores and warehouses in the Northeast and Midwest and the headquarters in Wayne, Pennsylvania.
“When the fence panels came up I thought, well, here’s my second chance. From my perspective, I saw a busy store and was surprised it was closing, ”says Angela. “Then I found out that closing the store was more of a business decision and didn’t reflect the success of that particular store. So that was good news.
The Dog Wash is “very popular with people who live within walking distance of the store,” says Angela Tolonen.Angela fulfilled her reverie. Work is currently underway to open the Tolonen Family Pet Shop, a full-service pet store offering dog food, treats, toys, equipment and grooming services. Using the infrastructure left by the old Pet Valu chain, the Tolonen Family Pet Shop will also continue the popular dog washing services.
“With the old Pet Valu area, dog washing was very popular. We want to keep the things the community really enjoyed, and then deliver more personalized services that you might not be able to get from a corporation, ”she says.
To do this, Angela posted on social media, asking the community what brands and products she would like to see in store. There were a few favorites offered, Angela says, but also a few surprises, like fun bird toys and “lots of feeding crickets.”
There is a reason why “Family” appears in the store name. Angela’s engineer husband put his logistics skills to good use, designing the store layout and making sure everything was put together efficiently. Their eldest daughter will manage the day-to-day operations; she is almost done with her grooming lessons and will also be taking care of the grooming room. The middle girl will be working part-time while she finishes school, and the youngest girl has enthusiastically started coming up with color schemes and patterns, Angela says. “She wants everything to be beautiful.”
“Our daughters worked really hard painting everything, setting up the shelves, choosing the t-shirts for the store. Making the logo was definitely a big group effort, ”says Angela.
“It was fun building this and doing it together.”
The Tolonens have always instilled a love for animals in their children. Angela says the kids had just about every creature you could have growing up, though she rejected their requests for monkeys and flying squirrels.
This is the Tolonen’s first business; Angela works in the healthcare industry by day. They hope to succeed by filling the void left by Pet Valu while enhancing themselves by being more responsive to the needs of the community. And his social media posts have given him plenty of good ideas. She discovered Lake Orion-based pet food brand Healthy Dogma this way, she says. She has also learned that with people who stay home longer due to COVID-19, feeding birds is a hobby that has grown in popularity. As a result, a lot of birdseed will now be available.
Keeping dog wash stations should help. Located at the front of the store, the three self-service dog washing stations invite people to wash their dogs in the store. The Tolonen Family Pet Shop will provide shampoo and towels.
“It’s very popular with people who live within walking distance of the store,” she says.
The service is so popular that the pet store opened the dog washing stations before the store actually opened. The store itself won’t officially open until mid-April.
“What I love most about downtown Farmington is that it’s very family-friendly. It is not a city center where there are only activities for adults. Riley Park, the farmers’ market – even taking a stroll at night is great for families, ”says Angela.
“I’m really excited that my kids are playing bigger roles in the store. As the other two get older, I wish it was something the three of us could have to manage and own together. And who knows, maybe there could be more stores down the road.
“I see it as family-to-family service for the community.”
Tolonen Family Pet Shop is located at 23320 Farmington Rd. In downtown Farmington.