RICHMOND — The Fetch RI pet boutique has been named one of “America’s Coolest Stores” by PETS+ magazine, a national pet industry publication.
Fetch RI was one of two stores in New England to receive an honorable mention from the New Jersey-based publication. PETS+ Editor in Chief Ralf Kircher said what set Fetch RI apart was store owner Johnna Devereaux’s customer service as well as her knowledge of dog and cat nutrition and herbal medicine.
“Her use of botanics and herbs is something that’s incredibly original,” he said. “Certainly we see people stocking natural and herbal products and stuff, but we don’t see many people doing it from scratch. I think that, and the combination of her customer service and just the store itself, which is a pretty unique store.”
A panel of judges evaluated stores across the country on their physical premises, their social media presence and the owners' philosophies and community engagement.
"One of the things that distinguishes Fetch RI from other retail outlets,” Devereaux said, is her large, white building at 91 Kingstown Road.
“One of the questions was ‘what makes your physical location unique?’ And so I had mentioned about how this had been Meadowbrook Herb Farm, and so as an herbalist, there’s kind of a connection there,” she said.
Devereaux recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of her business, a significant accomplishment at a time when brick and mortar retail, especially in small towns like Richmond, is struggling to survive. Competition in the pet supply business is especially ruthless. In addition to online retailers like Amazon and subscription services BarkBox and chewy.com, Devereaux is facing challenges from national pet supply giants like Petco and Petsmart.
“We’ve been working in a holistic way, using all natural, only made in the USA edibles since we opened, which was what made us different,” she said. “Now, you have the Petcos and the Petsmarts that are starting to take off the ingredients from China, and that’s leveling the playing field a little bit.”
A certified clinical pet nutritionist, Devereaux often receives referrals from veterinarians. "As an herbalist, I have people coming to me that are looking for natural remedies, either as adjunct therapies or instead of chemicals and pesticides, because we don’t sell any of that stuff here,” she said. “You always have to be ahead of the curve.”
Kircher said successful retailers like Devereaux offered products and services that aren’t available elsewhere.
“That’s customer service. That’s knowledge about the product. It’s knowledge of her customer base, and providing it in a way that make people want to keep coming back,” he said. “I think that’s one of the threads of success that we see every day, because we’re only talking with retailers who are really doing well. That’s what we see our mission as; finding out what people like Johnna are doing and share that information with similar retailers in different markets.”
Devereaux served for a brief period on the town’s Economic Development Commission, and Town Council member Mark Trimmer, a Richmond business booster and former commission member, said he regretted her departure.
“She has great ideas, and when she was on the Economic Development Commission, she had great ideas too, but there weren’t ears to hear them, so that was unfortunate,” he said. “I wish that she had a second opportunity to do for Richmond what she’s done for her own business.”
Two years ago, Devereaux moved her business from a small storefront in a strip mall to her current location on Route 138. Being on a busy road, she said, has helped attract new customers.
“Here, being right on 138, people drive by, they see the signage, they may have heard of us, they may not,” she said. “It definitely has helped us to have the storefront on a main road, a main road through to URI and the beaches.”
Devereaux attributes her success to the enthusiasm she brings to the business.
“I really care about animals and I really want to do right by people and animals,” she said. “I would rather have people walk out the door without a purchase if they were coming in for something that wasn’t going to be good for their dog or their cat.”