Since 1972, the Rose family has been providing the residents of Santa Clarita with pets and pet supplies. Mark Rose took full ownership of the Newhall Pet Center on Lyons Avenue three years ago and subsequently opened Pet Adventure in Canyon Country.

Kristin Wilder spoke with Rose about selling pets and competing against big chains.

"My family started the business in 1972. My mother was driving down San Fernando Road and she saw a pet store for sale. She had had enough of working for someone else, and so she bought it. It was a little hole in the wall, and it just grew from there. My family first moved to the location on Lyons Avenue in 1986.

"I just came back to the business three years ago and opened the second store in Canyon Country called Pet Adventure. It's actually twice the size of the one in Newhall. Both stores have different specialties. The Canyon Country store is a huge fish store. The Newhall store has tons of small animals and birds.

"We are really lucky because we have had 27 years of relationships with local breeders that we know. We turn down breeders that we don't know. We pride ourselves on the quality of our puppies. We specialize in small breeds. If people don't know what they want, we help them contact shelters. We come into play when they know what (breed) they want. We help them locate the right dog for them.

"If you buy a pet, you are buying a slice of family, whether it's a hamster or a puppy. You can't get reliable information from someone (at a chain store) who reads a 10-page pamphlet on how to sell guinea pigs. We spend 10 to 20 percent of our time fixing problems (related to) the big guys. In fact, they send people to us when they don't know what to do.

"There is no question that the big chains have taken a big chunk of the market. But we took our hit and now all we have to do is recapture that with customer loyalty. I may not have 20 different sizes of goldfish bowls, but we have the right information that people need.

"Too many people get into the pet industry as a hobby. They love pets, and they think that makes them the right person to own a pet store. Loving pets does not mean that you can run a business.

"Don't get me wrong, I love animals. I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't, but there are bills to pay and aspects of this business that are separate from that. I think that is why a lot of pet stores don't last very long. They don't know what it takes to keep this kind of store running."

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