Heidi Vanorse won the "How Well Do You Know Midcoast Maine" photo contest and is our Spotlight winner this month. Born and raised in Rockland, she is a graduate of Rockland District High School and Thomas College in Waterville. She spent 15 years in banking prior to purchasing the Loyal Biscuit Company. She and her husband, Joel, live in Rockland with their four dogs, Buffy, Izzy, Fenway and Chuck.
Q: What inspired you to open a cat and dog boutique in Maine and what is the magic sauce that makes it hip?
A: We actually purchased the Loyal Biscuit Co. in January 2010, and since then have turned it into this amazing store. Actually, it is now two stores with our new location in Belfast. I think the magic sauce that makes us hip is the fun atmosphere our store provides. Since purchasing The Biscuit, we have added a more fun, community-based atmosphere, something the store was severely lacking when we took over. Between the store dogs, Chuck and Fenway, and all of our customers' dogs, you are bound to run into a dog or two when you visit. Add to that the fun personalities and awesome customer service that Mel, April and I provide, coming to the Biscuit is always a fun and friendly experience.
Q: What were your former jobs before this and is this the dream store you always imagined opening?
A: I never ever really imagined myself owning a business, let alone a pet supply boutique. I started in banking the day after I graduated from college and really thought that was what I would always be doing. One night in December 2009, my husband and I were having a totally random conversation and I said, 'I bet it would be fun to own the Loyal Biscuit.' He encouraged me to talk to the former owner and unbeknownst to us, the store was actually for sale! Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Less than a month later, we were the owners of the Loyal Biscuit and have been going dog-crazy ever since!
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your business?
A: Well, playing with puppies is always fun, but I would have to say the most rewarding part of the business is when you help improve someone's life, either for dog or owner. We have had many success stories of dogs who've had major itches, ear infections, hot spots, or are fussy eaters, etc. and by finding the right diet, their lives have greatly improved. There is nothing better than an owner coming in and thanking you for helping their dog or cat lead a better life. The other aspect I find truly rewarding are the relationships I have formed with our customers. I always get hugs from my customers when I haven't seen them in a while - where else would customers and the store owner hug? Our customers really are like family!
Q: You offer a "Self Serve Dog Wash" which is kinda funny anyway, but then you've enacted an "Important Skunk Policy" to go with it. Did you have to enforce this policy after learning the hard way?
A: Thank goodness, no! We have been skunked before at our house and it is not fun. We researched many other self-serve dog wash operations in the country before opening ours and that seemed to be something that was pretty consistent with all of them. Skunk odor is just so strong and nasty and frankly, a water bath just doesn't do anything to remove the oils that the spray contains. The hydrogen peroxide recipe that is on our website works really well, as does the Nature's Miracle Skunk Remover we sell. I always keep a bottle of that at home, because it never fails. They get sprayed at night and the last thing you want to do is have to run to the grocery store to get supplies!
Q: On top of expanding your business to Belfast, you've invented an entire treat line for dogs (all gluten free, ha!). Tell us what goes into these treats and where you locally source your ingredients.
A: April Thibodeau and I created the Loyal Biscuit Treat Company this summer. Currently we have original, which contains anise seed, and we just released Peanut Butter this week. We hope to add to the line with other holiday and seasonal flavors, like gingerbread, blueberry and pumpkin. Our treats are 100 percent organic and we try and source as many ingredients as possible from Maine, such as Non-GMO organic cold-pressed canola oil from Maine Natural Oils in Presque Isle and organic oat and brown rice flours from Fiddler's Green Farm in Belfast. Our treats are wheat, corn and soy free and come in a fantastic tin that can be reused for refills. And since our refills come in a biodegradable and compostable bag, we are excited to see so many customers coming back to refill their tins with not only a Maine made product, but one that is so environmentally friendly.
Q: To inspire others, why is Midcoast Maine a great place to open a small business in your opinion?
A: For me, I love owning a business in Midcoast Maine. The close-knit community and support our customers provide is amazing. There isn't any other place besides Maine where I would like to own a business. One of the things we love to do is support the local animal community in any way that we can and our customers have always participated in all of our events, from our nail-clipping clinics and giving tree at Christmas to our Pints for Paws event, which we are hosted again with Trackside on Oct. 24. The people of Midcoast Maine are the most caring and giving people I know!
The winner of the “How Well Do You Know Midcoast Maine” photo contest gets The White Hot Spotlight on The Killer Convo as a way to profile everyday people and their creative passions.
Lovely interview with one of my favorite pet shop owners. Heidi, you've made the Biscuit grow and flourish. Prudence and I love shopping there not only because of the awesome and healthy products you carry, but also because we know we'll be greeted with a smile and chit chat from the whole Biscuit crew.
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The Killer Convo
This blog is a is a killer roundup of all arts, entertainment, brewery & distillery, food trucks, happy hour happenings in the Midcoast Maine. Feel free to email me anything about Midcoast arts, entertainment & the creative economy.