Pandemic spurs career change for new Twinsburg pet store owner
While the COVID-19 pandemic has turned many lives upside down, there was a large silver lining for Jillian Sweress.
Sweress, a lifelong Aurora resident and a 2010 graduate from Aurora High School, said she was "really unhappy in her previous job" in the fitness field. She had been looking at other options when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
About three months into the pandemic, area animal shelters cleared out as people flocked to rescues to adopt a pet, she said. As a result, Sweress, 28, started looking at pet store franchise opportunities.
"I'm passionate about the field," she said. "I grew up with animals. I've had dogs, cats, parakeets, guinea pigs, hamsters. We had ducks at one point. Sixty percent of people in the country own a pet. So I started exploring, and lo and behold a location in Twinsburg opened up."
That location for Pet Supplies Plus, which opened in January, is at 8928 Darrow Road, Suite D101, in the Twinsburg Town Center Marketplace near the Giant Eagle. Pet Supplies Plus took over a space that had been occupied by Pet Valu.
Sweress said that the store hasn't had an official grand opening, but she hopes to have an event sometime in August.
The Twinsburg Pet Supplies Plus is one of the first franchisee-owned stores in the Cleveland area. Sweress co-owns the location with an undisclosed business partner.
"Without COVID happening, I don't think I would have gone this route," she said. "Pets are familiar to me, and with COVID, there's been a great growth in the market. To be involved in a community that is very close to my hometown was just fantastic."
There is a learning curve with running a business, but those considering should look at franchise options, Sweress said.
"Luckily, corporate has been really helpful," she said. "That's why you want to go into franchising. There's a little bit of handholding. If you don't know the answer to something, someone out there will."
In addition, Sweress said her staff has years of experience in the pet store business.
"Our team members are equipped to ask the right questions," she said. "We are not a big box brand and we don't want to be. We want to be that local community piece. Want to be able to greet owners and pets by their name."
Sweress said that Pet Supplies Plus has partnered with the Euclid Beach Cat Project to have adoptable cats at the store. However, those are the only animals currently available at the Twinsburg location.
"All corporate stores have fish, birds, small pets and a cat adoption area," she said. "We don't have live animals right now. We are still in Phase 1."
Sweress said the store will have animals available to purchase by the end of June.
Pet Supplies Plus sells a variety of pet supplies and plans to offer events at the store such as a paw print card activity for Mother's Day and bandanas for St. Patrick's Day. In addition, the store can do same-day delivery if the customer lives within 7 miles of the store on orders placed before noon. Deliveries can be made by the next day for orders placed after noon. Curbside pickup also is offered.
"Pet Supplies Plus has such a good following in the Cleveland market," Sweress said. "People are happy that we are here now, in their local city. We've had nothing but positive reviews."
In addition to running the store, Sweress said she likes to run competitively.
"I'm a runner, so I do marathons," she said. "I train about 50 miles a week. It's my way to decompress."
Sweress said she has qualified for the Boston Marathon in October. She has qualified for the past three years and was going to go last year, but the marathon was canceled due to the pandemic.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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