Best Pet Store 

Dolittle's

Dolittle's

West Ashley. 2 Windermere Blvd. 852-5811

Mt. Pleasant. 620 Long Point Road. 971-8650

Summerville. 114 East Richardson Ave. 851-8173

Ric and Leah Sommons began selling doggie trinkets to tourists in the Charleston City Market in 1994. Encouraged by their success and the increasing demand for unique pet products, they opened the first Dolittle's store in West Ashley in 1999. Today there are three locations specializing in hard-to-find pet accessories. Their self-service dog wash provides a great opportunity for pet owners to socialize and sanitize, and the Sommons' distinctive expertise in natural and holistic foods and treatments gives Dolittle's an edge on national chain pet stores.

The website www.smallbiztrends.com lists several reasons behind the recent growth of pet-related small businesses. For one, the market has become inundated with new and novel pet products like pet deli snacks and such convenience items as programmable feeding and watering stations. The American Pet Products Manufacturers' Association estimates pet industry expenditures in the United States in 2006 at $38.4 billion, up from $28.5 billion in 2001. Even companies like Old Navy that are traditionally known for human products are getting in on the game, so there is increased competition and attention on items available for pets. Pet services and health care are also on the upswing. Add all this to a nation that is becoming increasingly more interested in pet adoption -- 63 percent of American households own at least one pet, up from 56 percent in 1988 -- and it's easy to see why business is booming. The Lowcountry is no exception to the trend, as evidenced by the launch of Lowcountry Dog magazine in 2006.

The Charleston area's beaches, walkable streets, and parks are conducive to a pet-accompanied lifestyle. Dolittle's focuses on helping pets and their people enjoy the Lowcountry, and their business is attuned to the realities of pet ownership. Their typical client is no Paris Hilton searching for luxury doggie accoutrements, but more likely a dog lover devoted to pet health and the occasional romp in the ocean with their four-legged friend.

"We have fun putting on dog goggles and the occasional T-shirt, but we've steered clear of the canine arm candy set," says Ric Sommons. "Dolittle's understands that no matter how much a leash or collar costs, we're still talking about a creature that will drag its rear across your floor."


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