NORTHFIELD — Peggy Dellisanti had nearly 40 years of experience owning a boutique clothing shop in Norristown, Pa.
What she didn’t have was a whole lot of experience running a pet and supply store in Northfield.
“I’ve learned how to get crickets out of buckets and count them, to get super worms out of a bucket and count them,” she said. “Because of my background, I felt like Eva Gabor in ‘Green Acres.’”
Dellisanti has added her own flair to the 51-year-old Arnold’s Pets & Supplies in Northfield, which her late husband, George Dellisanti, purchased in 1997.
For years, Peggy Dellisanti focused on their Main Changes Clothing business in Pennsylvania, while her husband concentrated on the pet store.
But in 2005, he died suddenly at the age of 61, and his wife found herself trying to run both businesses simultaneously.
“When my husband died, I was running this from a distance for a while, and it got to be too much,” she said.
Choosing between the two was tough.
Main Changes Clothing was in operation since 1969, and Dellisanti had four decades of experience in the clothing industry, knowing the top designers in fashion hotbeds such as New York and California. The clothing store was set up like a nightclub, complete with disco ball and stage lighting.
“I got tired and I had to make a choice. And I was up for the challenge and I thought this would be a great legacy in honor of my husband, to reinvent this place and still keep the uniqueness of the mom-and-pop store,” said Dellisanti, who closed the Norristown business in 2011 to focus entirely on Arnold’s.
The timing was fortuitous in some ways.
U.S. households spent $53 billion on their pets in 2012, compared to about $30 million 10 years ago, according to the American Pet Products Association, a Connecticut-based trade group of suppliers and manufacturers. Spending is expected to reach nearly $56 billion this year.
About 62 percent of U.S. households have a pet, according to the association’s 2011-12 National Pet Owners Survey.
At Arnold’s, the pet and supply store has gone through series of renovations, including new signs with a cartoonish image of a smiling boy surrounded by playful pets.
Dellisanti is planning more changes to open more space floor space and enhance the outside appearance of the building.
She also benefits from a strong Facebook presence — her oldest son, Pasquale, is a social-media manager who handles that aspect of the business, she said.
The shop sells all manner of pet food, over-the-counter medications, supplies and accessories.
Dellisanti said her fashion background blends with the business. For example, in additional to traditional pet carriers, she carries boutique-style pink and green carrier creates as well.
The store does not sell dogs or cats, but does sell other pets, such as geckos, guinea pigs, mice and a bearded dragon named Blondie.
The cages are set deliberately low, a trick she and her husband learned from their former stuffed animal store on the Wildwood Boardwalk.
“It dawned on us the stuffed animals were up too high, and the children couldn’t see them,” she said. “(Here) we put the cages down low so when the kids come in, it’s very kid-friendly.”
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