There are 600 varieties of healthy dog and cat food at Mud Bay’s newest store in Sumner. But there’s still something missing.
“You won’t see the words ‘byproducts’ or ‘animal fat’ listed anywhere on our ingredient labels,” Store Manager Lynn Montgomery said. “Every ingredient has to list exactly where it came from.”
That kind of approach to good dog and cat health has catapulted the Olympia-based, family-owned company into a growth spurt, with 17 stores found between Thurston and King counties.
It’s a family affair that has Lars Wulff, 47, and his sister Marisa, 44, running the show, along with their mother Elsa, who started the company 21 years ago in a small store above Olympia’s Mud Bay. After a few early struggles, the family rid its supplies of nonessential products and focused on offering healthy foods for dogs and cats.
“Besides, we just really didn’t have a lot of space to carry a lot of products for other animals,” Lars Wulff said. “We envisioned taking a lot of information, sifting through it and figuring out how to put that in front of dog and cat owners, so they could make useful information.”
Their ideas worked. The company built its trust with pet owners and soon had an extensive customer base.
“We’re the largest retailer in the U.S. that focuses on natural foods for dogs and cats,” Wulff said. “We travel the country. We interview and talk to the people who formulate and produce dog and cat food. We read scientific journals then pass on that information. The key is that we’re not producers ourselves. We’re not manufacturing so we can independently investigate, learn and give that information to dog and cat owners.”
So popular is the demand for healthy pet products that Mud Bay opened a 30,000 square-foot distribution facility in Olympia nine years ago.
Today, the company not only sells natural pet food but other chemical-free products like flea treatments, fold-up/roll-up rubber feeding bowls and padded hiking shoes. Such merchandise confirms that it really can be a dog’s life, though Mud Bay does sell products pets other than dogs and cats.
Setting Mud Bay apart from traditional pet supply stores is a giant inventory of food that’s not only canned or dried but also dehydrated, frozen and refrigerated – and in some cases, unusual; in the back corner, shelves carry kangaroo and brushtail, a New Zealand possum-like creature, Montgomery explained. The food is dehydrated and the owner adds water. “Our protein sources are really unique,” she said.
One of Mud Bay’s frozen selections includes a chicken meal, with its ingredient label listing foods like raw chicken, ground chicken bones, pheasant eggs, flaxseed and broccoli, to name a few. And if the weather’s hot, there are always Sweet Spots – or as Montgomery said, “puppy ice cream.”
Providing a wealth of information comes in handy when customers ask employees for pet food suggestions – especially when their animals show signs of possible allergies or other potential health problems. That’s when Mud Bay puts into practice its ongoing training required for every employee.
“All our staff knows our food, animal behavior and physiology,” Montgomery said.
But training doesn’t replace a veterinarian’s expertise. And Mud Bay knows it.
“We don’t diagnose,” she said. “We tell them to go to the vet first, to make sure it’s something that’s not serious. Then we fill them up with samples of food to try. It’s a real collaborative relationship we have with vets – I don’t want to be arrogant and think I know something veterinarians don’t know.”
Working with vets’ suggestions ultimately leads to providing the best service possible for customers of the furry and four-legged kind, whose numbers are now nearing 40,000.
“We’re really delighted to be here,” Lars Wulff said. “Sumner reminds us a lot of Olympia – it feels like a small town. Our hope is that we can contribute to the health of dogs and cats in Sumner as much as we have in our other stores.”
Mud Bay is at 15105 Main St., Suite 101, across from Fred Meyer. It is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Its phone number is 253-863-0513 and its Web site is www.mudbay.com.
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