Jules and Richard enjoy working to their strengths as business partners
As the last remaining indie pet shop in Cambridge, this unique business has quite a few tales to tell, as owner Jules Brown reveals to Justine Thompson
Grumpy’s pet shop has two owners, myself Jules Brown and my business partner Richard Page. We are known as Mr and Mrs Grumpy – but we’re neither married nor grumpy!
We have been running Grumpy’s since December 2001, so this year will be our 20th year in business. We really enjoy working together and the reason it works so well is because we like different aspects of running the business. I enjoy the purchasing side, sourcing new products then creating an interesting display with them. Richard very much has his ‘finger on the pulse’ when it comes to finances and ensures that we are making those purchases at the most competitive prices. But probably the predominant reason that our partnership is successful is that we’re passionate about pets and get a real ‘buzz’ from helping customers with dietary advice and providing a unique ‘personal shopper’ type service in our shop.
The shop is in a great location and has its own forecourt parking
I came into the trade in 1984 and Richard started working in a pet shop when he left school in 1992. We’ve seen many changes over that time but the biggest one was the introduction of premium-type petfoods, which I think was in the 90s when Leander International first brought Eukanuba and Iams to our shores. The main ingredients in dog/cat food changed from cereal to meat and the price went up. The food manufacturers improved pet food and treats year upon year and we’ve found that people will pay a premium price because they love their pets so much! We both agree that these premium diets have improved the life expectancy and health of our pets no end.
Grumpy’s was born when our previous company, which owned two pet shops, had to be disbanded when one of the owners – Mike Hardcastle – died. Richard and I decided that we wanted to name our new business after him. We discounted the obvious names like Mike’s pets etc, and came up with Grumpy’s pet shop. That’s not to say Mike was ‘grumpy’, it was just that many years before he owned a pet shop he had run a pub with his wife Joan and their regulars had called her ‘Stumpy’ and Mike ‘Grumpy’. We’ve really never looked back with such a fab name for our pet shop. We’re often asked why we called our shop Grumpy pets and the story about how we came up with it keeps him alive in our hearts and minds.
Our shop is based in North Cambridge in a suburb called Chesterton. One of its main assets is that it has forecourt parking and there are no parking restrictions in the surrounding area either. We’re within walking distance of the city centre, yet also close to the A14, so our location is perfect because it’s easy to get to for customers and also for receiving deliveries. We took this shop over from a previous owner called Paul Lloyd who ran this shop as Lloyd’s pet foods for many years.
When we first ran the shop, like most other traditional pet shops we sold pets. However, within a few years we decided to concentrate on selling only natural pet foods and treats. To increase the range, we had to make way for more food stands. This involved taking out all the animal housing and, of course, we had to stop selling pets. Although we loved having the animals here, it was time-consuming and costly to keep them, so we took a deep breath and took the plunge to change our business model and concentrate on selling premium natural pet foods, treats and accessories. At this time many of the ‘top end’ brands weren’t available in Supermarkets (which were one of our main competitors) and we quickly found out that selling ‘niche’ products brought customers back to our store.
Cheeky Lulu loves saying ‘hello’ to all the customers. She is much loved and even has her own Facebook page
The only pet we have here now is our Moluccan Cockatoo called Lulu, who is roughly 35 years old.
Lulu was hand reared by Mike and she had lived in our other pet shop previously. After he died, she came to live here in Grumpy’s, which she seems to really like as she gets lots of attention – something she craves. She is much loved by our customers (despite the fact that she can be really noisy) and she endears herself to them with her cheeky ‘hello’. She has her own Facebook page and many of the adults who visit her today used to come in and see her when they were children. They now bring their kids to see her, so she is as much a part of the Grumpy’s team as we are!
We have a much-valued member of staff called Jason who does deliveries and helps run our pet sitting service. We started pet sitting for a handful of customers many years ago and that side of our business has grown exponentially, we now have a few hundred people that use our service on a regular basis. When the pandemic struck, we lost the revenue from this side of the business but like so many other pet shops found that the sales in our retail business increased because of more people getting pets during lockdown, so we count ourselves very lucky that our business is surviving covid so well.
During lockdown our delivery service was very busy and we were involved with helping the more vulnerable people in our community with getting prescriptions and shopping etc. There was also an exciting community project during lockdown whereby songwriters had to collate a folk songbook that
depicted what it’s like living in and being a part of the North Cambridge Community. The project leader Emily Peasgood asked if she could write a song about our pet shop being a part of the community, so of course we agreed, especially as a part of its legacy is to let future generations know what it was like living and working in this area during a pandemic.
Grumpy’s must surely be the only pet shop with its own song
Richard and I have been working in the pet trade for nearly 40 years now – our pet shop is the last remaining independent pet shop within the city of Cambridge. We have had to adapt and change over the years and feel that we’ve learned along the way and made some good business decisions. We love all the pet shop banter with the reps and lorry drivers and there are not many days when Richard doesn’t have us all in a fit of the giggles. We don’t have expansion plans as we like things just the way they are, we nurture our own business, Grumpy’s is us…Jules, Richard and Jason – and not forgetting Lulu.