PAWTUCKET – Rumford Pet Express has expanded into four new locations formerly occupied by the Pet Valu chain, doubling its retail footprint.
The Pawtucket-based company is a fourth-generation, family-owned business, and specializes in healthy foods, treats and accessories for pets. It experienced a sharp increase in sales during the pandemic as stay-at-home families adopted dogs, cats and other pets in large numbers.
When Pet Valu in November 2020 announced it would close its stores across the United States, Rumford Pet Express pounced.
“I sprung into action,” said Michael Baker, the owner and great-grandson of the founder. He renegotiated the leases of his former competitor in four Rhode Island locations, including stores in Barrington, Cumberland, Middletown and in the village of Wakefield in South Kingstown. He purchased all the fixed assets of the retail locations, including the walk-in dog showers, a feature Rumford Pet Express also uses.
Baker did not disclose the purchase price.
The pandemic for many independent retailers in the pet supply specialty market led almost immediately to increased sales, he said, as people worried that food would be scarce and bought more supplies than typical.
After a slowdown in May 2020, his sales picked up dramatically and haven’t stopped. Nationally, Americans adopted 2.5 million dogs in the months after the pandemic started, Baker said. He did not have figures for Rhode Island, but said he had to assume that the increased sales since are reflecting more people and families with pets locally.
“I’m doing significantly more business now than I was pre-COVID. It has to be new people to the business,” he said.
The company will be holding a series of grand-opening events this month, designed to kick off its new size. Baker said he tried to hire as many of the former Pet Valu employees as he could. The Canadian retailer allowed him to contact its employees when he was in the process of purchasing the assets.
Baker’s great-grandfather, Herbert ‘Salty’ Baker, started the business as a small pet store in the Great Depression, initially from the basement of his home in East Providence. He initially focused on small birds, like canaries, and aquarium fish.
In 1959, the company established its first retail location in East Providence, off Warren Avenue. The business occupies the same site today, in a larger store. It also has locations in North Kingstown, Smithfield, Warwick and in Attleboro.
Rumford Pet has a large selection of natural pet foods and treats, as well as toys and pet supplies. It no longer sells animals. The locations now hold in-store adoption events, instead.
In the near-future, Baker said he plans to offer limited home delivery, within a certain number of miles of the retail stores. And the company has launched a website that allows customers to schedule same-day, in-store or curbside pickup.
Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at email@example.com.
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