Samantha Usina’s customers know the routine at Dog 30 pet supply shop on White Street.
They walk in, with or without their pets, and call out a happy-to-be-there greeting to Usina, who bought the shop at 1025 White St. around Thanksgiving of last year. Then they generally head over to the register and peek behind the counter, where Marshall the Dog, wearing a red and white Key West Conchs dog collar, happily greets everyone who ventures in — even the cat people, albeit begrudgingly.
“I swear, I have the best customers in the world,” said Usina, who is proving daily that deluxe customer service can ensure the survival of a brick-and-mortar store that turns an ordinary, and often heavy errand into an enjoyable part of people’s day. “One of my regular customers was in here buying something quickly. Then she called me here at the store about 20 minutes after she left.
“She said, ‘I just had to call to be sure you were OK, because I didn’t trust that guy who was hanging around in the store while I was there, and I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t check on you,’” Usina said. “They’re just amazing. They stop in to chat with me and with each other to compare notes about their pets, which plenty of people consider their kids.”
Usina has both, and one of each is typically behind the counter each day at Dog 30 — Marshall the 15-month-old boxer mix and Hazel, the 4-year-old kid.
“The name basically means anytime is dog time,” she said. “But we don’t discriminate against cats and their humans at all, and we have just as much cat food, treats, supplements, shampoos, beds, collars and toys for them as for our canine customers. And we have a people corner as well with gifts, not just for animals, but animal lovers.”
Dog 30 also has a whole section for small animals, such as hamsters, rabbits and guinea pigs, and will soon add a section of bird supplies.
But Usina is more than a pet supply store. Just ask the 8-week-old kitten that was captivating customers and window shoppers last week from its triple-story, luxury enclosure. Usina is constantly fostering kittens for both SNIP — Spay and Neuter in Paradise — and for the Florida Keys SPCA.
“I foster kittens and adopt them out from the shop,” she said, adding that the kittens she adopts out already have their shots and are merely awaiting a forever home. The kitten in the window this past week had watched her sister be adopted and was awaiting a family of her own. But until then, Usina and her own happy menagerie make everyone feel welcome.
“I have two kids, two dogs, two cats and a fish, plus whomever we’re fostering at any time,” said the St. Augustine native who worked for 10 years Schooner Wharf Bar before she bought Dog 30 last Thanksgiving.
Dog 30 is one of only two local shops that sells CBD products for animals, and Usina is always eager to carry whatever products people request for special orders.
“I place a special order for someone every day, and once I do it once, then I’m happy to carry that product for them regularly, said Usina, who knows all of her customers — human and animal — by name and preferred treat. “And while some of the higher-end pet food and supplements can be more expensive, I always tell people, if you think the price of wellness is expensive, try the price of illness when it comes to our pets.”
David Sloan is one such customer who views his weekly trips to Dog 30 as a favorite stop in his day, rather than an obligation.
“Sure I can get our dog’s high-end food delivered by some online giant,” said Sloan, “Or I can support a local business owner, stop into Dog 30 and have nice conversations with like-minded animal lovers. To me, that’s what shopping local and continuing Key West’s community appeal is what it’s all about.”
Regular customer Albert Holdrum agreed.
“This is the best damn pet store,” he said on Wednesday. “Samantha has really good advice and treats people and animals as if they’re all special.”
Dog 30, 1025 White St., is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and Saturday to 5 p.m.