Retail Insider visited Tom&Sawyer's flagship retail store in the Leslieville neighbourhood of Toronto to talk about Canada's first fresh prepared Pet Meals company.
Toronto-based fresh prepared pet meals company Tom&Sawyer plans to open locations Canada-wide, after considerable success with its first flagship retail location, online retail store and subscription-based personalized delivery service (available Toronto wide). The company already has its concept and branding in place and given its uniqueness, it plans to expand with locations across Canada and into core US markets, to better meet consumer demand to feed real food to their beloved pets while the pet market evolves to meet human food handling requirements.
The retail concept was founded by husband-wife team Peter Zakarow and Kristin Matthews. When their Yorkie-poo, Sawyer, refused to eat commercially made pet food, Ms. Matthews began preparing home cooked meals for their puppy and envisioned an offering for pet owners that was more professional, transparent and quality-driven than anything else on the market. The idea turned into a business when the couple realized that there were limited opportunities to buy food for dogs and cats that actually included fresh, high-quality ingredients, although most product marketing made people think they were. Ms. Matthews, formerly a forensic accountant, joined Mr. Zakarow in a venture to open a retail concept unlike any other in North America, and created a new product offering called “pet meals” to differentiate from the traditionally sub-par offerings served as dog and cat food.
In May of 2016, they launched both their online retail store www.tomandsawyer.comand the company’s first flagship retail location at 1247 Queen Street East in Toronto's Leslieville area, following a year of extensive research and development. The retail space was formerly a radiator shop and the co-founders saw the opportunity to turn it into an innovative retail space (with the help of Avison Young's Hilary Kellar-Parsons, who was Tom&Sawyer’s commercial real estate representativve). After considerable renovations, the modern bricks and mortar store opened, featuring a visually stunning and transparent commercial kitchen at its centre, with a lounge area for people and pets -- as well as a variety of carefully curated pet accessories and toys, all unique with a Canadian-made focus. Humans may consume coffee and other food/drinks on the premises, though pets are the stars of the show at Tom&Sawyer.
Pet meal preparation is done on-site with the kitchen open to view to the public, creating a transparency unavailable with traditional pet food retailers. The co-founders brought in a team of pet experts to ensure optimum quality, including vets, food scientists, animal nutrition consultants, and a culinary team led by accomplished Toronto chef Trish Donnelly. Ingredients used are fresh and healthy, real food ingredients, including quality meats and vegetables, as well as vitamins and healthy oils, to create meals nutritionally balanced for dogs or cats. Everything they sell can be eaten by humans, the founders explained, though it could use a bit of salt for taste and you may not like flavour combinations that dogs love.
For those too busy to regularly visit the Leslieville store, Tom&Sawyer also offers a personalized subscription-based delivery service all done through their website, where your food is delivered to your home by a delivery specialist and their dog.
Not long after opening, local pet owners raved about the concept and with numerous national media outlets having written about their innovative business, people from all parts of Toronto come to Leslieville specifically to visit Tom&Sawyer. “Pets are increasingly part of the family, and people are finally questioning why we have been feeding dogs and cats by-products, not fit for human consumption, that are even lower quality than fast food” says Ms. Matthews. “We needed a way to compete with large marketing budgets that mislead consumers, so we decided to focus on transparency in how we make our pet meals” says Mr. Zakarow. Recognizing the loyalty to the brand and opportunity, Mr. Zakarow and Ms. Matthews plan to eventually open approximately 20 Tom&Sawyer locations in Canada over the next five years, to further transform the pet lifestyle experience in local communities. As the concept takes off, they say that they will expand into the United States as operations continue to grow, and they are contacted weekly by interested customers across Europe and Asia.
*Photos were supplied by Tom&Sawyer.
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