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One Customer — & Employee — at a Time
To be a true steward of our communities, our nation and our planet, we must begin with people. When people are valued, just about anything is possible. Because it’s futile to expect empathy, support and community contribution from individuals who haven’t received that themselves. It’s a simple, feedback loop kind of idea that is often taught at the family dinner table, but rarely implemented in a business setting.
You might say Julie Hunter is a cultivator of this very simple yet rare philosophy in her business, Bend Pet Express. As a female owner of a Bend-built brand, Hunter believes that contributing to a better community starts with her staff and healthy pets. “I have a genuine desire to ensure pets are healthy, which in turn, means our customers are healthy,” Hunter said. “It’s not about sales; we sincerely care what happens when our customers walk out the door, and are committed to making something work for them. Guaranteed.”
The brilliance lies in the fact that Hunter’s devotion doesn’t stop at animal initiatives. She is a strong proponent for a livable wage and all full time employees receive health, dental and vision benefits. Part time employees receive matched retirement and sick pay. She will even pay for her employees to exercise.
Another element that sets Bend Pet Express apart from other businesses is that Hunter makes sure all of her staff are extremely well trained on the nutritional value of the gourmet products they carry. Bend Pet Express has a 90-day training period, so that employees send customers home with the right diet for their beloved pet. It’s the training, and the attention to service that’s provided that makes all the difference. The nutritional component is crucial.
Having begun from her garage in the late ’70s, Hunter began with the basic desire of wanting better food for her dog, so she went straight to the distributor. Within three months, she was operating out of a warehouse, determined to distribute both the best product and the best customer service to Bendites. Hunter has owned the only local Premium Pet Food store for 25 years and has supported and continues to support numerous local events like the July 4th Pet Parade and Festival and the pet food bank, HOPE, SNIP and Bend Spay and Neuter. She donates not only food but the space to run the program, a costly but invaluable task.
“I’ve gone from simply being a dog lover to finding my passion,” said Hunter. “We have a great retail environment so our customers leave knowing they bought the best for their pet. Better yet, every dollar that is spent in our store is allowing our staff to contribute back into the community. It’s allowing us to retire here. That’s the power of local.”