The Return of Chuck & Don’s

The popular pet food store, with local roots, is back in Woodbury.
Lacy Sandquist, store manager at Woodbury’s Chuck and Don’s, with a four-legged customer.

Woodbury animal lovers hailed the opening of a new Chuck & Don’s Pet Food & Supplies in CityPlace shopping center this summer. The fast-growing pet supply retailer now boasts 24 stores in its home state and several additional locations in Wisconsin and Colorado. While Chuck & Don’s specialty is super premium dog and cat foods, the store has also become a go-to source for unique pet toys, custom gifts and gear, and quality grooming products.

Chuck Anderson, who started the company with his friend Don Tauer, recalls that getting into the pet food business was a “no-brainer.” Shortly after purchasing the Animal Inn Boarding Kennel in Lake Elmo from Anderson in 1988, Tauer made a life-changing calculation. He brought it to his friend’s attention that clients were purchasing a truck and a half’s worth of pet food from the Animal Inn each month, identifying a niche market in which the pair of dog enthusiasts would go on to make a name for themselves. They opened their first Chuck & Don’s in Eagan in 1990.

CEO Bob Hartzell points out that last June’s grand opening marked not an arrival, but rather a long-awaited return. He recalls their reluctance in shutting the doors on their first Chuck & Don’s in Woodbury several decades ago. “It was too big for us—9,000 square feet,” he says. “We had to let it go. But we’ve been wanting to get back ever since.”

At 4,000 square feet, the new Woodbury store is much smaller than the first and showcases a fresh look for the company. “We really took things to a whole new level,” says Lacy Sandquist, Woodbury store manager, who has been with Chuck & Don’s for more than 10 years. Shorter shelving, natural lighting and an open floor plan all contribute to an atmosphere more agreeable for two-legged and four-legged shoppers alike. “We’ve really zeroed in on the friendly, neighborhood feel,” Hartzell says.

What sets Chuck & Don’s apart from the national chains is the quality of their products and their commitment to exemplary customer service, Anderson says. “We try to give our customers everything that they want. Not just in the product line, but also in the sales associates. If our sales person spends an hour with [a customer], and they buy nothing, so be it.”

Another advantage is Chuck & Don’s flexible return policy. Sandquist says that cat owners are particularly enthusiastic about the option to return or exchange bags of food which are at least half full within 45 days of purchase. “We’ll do that as many times as it takes,” she says. “We don’t want you throwing away a chunk of money on a bag of food [your pet won’t eat]. We always want your pet to be happy and healthy.”

Product quality is at the heart of Chuck & Don’s success. “We sell what are considered ‘super premium’ brands. Not [what] you see in the grocery aisle,” Sandquist says. Customers should consider cost-per-feeding rather than the cost of the bag itself; with super premium brands, an acceptable serving size will be a fraction of what’s required with grocery store brands. Sandquist points out an oft-overlooked benefit of this dietary transition: “The less food goes in, the less comes out.”

Pet Picks
Chuck & Don’s hard lines buyer Wendy Bartz shares some of her favorite selections from the shelves.

Rrraw Bistro Strips
“These treats come out of Cannon Falls, Minn. and feature free-range and grass-fed [meat sources], as well as flaxseed, spearmint (for breath), ginger (for digestion) and cinnamon and cloves (for antioxidants).”

Many Pastures
“This line of freeze-dried treats is made in Princeton, Minn. They come in beef, chicken and pork, and are small enough to be used as a training treat for most medium to large sized dogs.”

Bixbi Bark Pops
“This is a new treat for dogs. Think along the lines of Pirate’s Booty or other puffed popcorn-type human treats but for dogs. These are low calorie and contain no corn, wheat or soy. [They come in] two flavors: white cheddar and apple cinnamon.”

Go-Cat Interactive Toys
“Get your cats moving around with these toys that mimic the behavior of birds.”

Earth Animal No Hide
“These are newer to our assortment. They are a non-rawhide alternative for dogs that is much more digestible than traditional rawhide. They come in a variety of sizes.”

Dirty Dog Shammy by Dog Gone Smart
“This highly absorbent shammy towel is perfect for bath time, going swimming or playing in the rain.”