Danny Offenbacher, owner of City of Paws Pet Care, in front of his storefront.
Entrepreneur Danny Offenbacher explains how, in the face of change, his business became something different than originally planned, and adaptation has been key. — City of Paws Pet Care

Sometimes in business, it’s best not to stick to the plan. At least that’s what entrepreneur Danny Offenbacher has learned works best for City of Paws Pet Care after the last few unexpected years.

City of Paws is a pet retail store in the popular Philadelphia neighborhood of Manayunk. Close to many different universities in the area, the town brings in people of all ages with a variety of furry friends. City of Paws offers something for every pet, from high-quality pet supplies to in-store self-wash tubs.

Offenbacher has always been a devoted dog owner, and his love for pets has always been the driving force behind his decision to open City of Paws. Here are some of the lessons he’s learned while running the business.

Be adaptable and identify gaps in the industry

Offenbacher started his business in 2016, though it looked like a very different business from the one it is today. He originally offered dog-walking and pet-sitting services to 500 clients in the local area while selling a limited selection of pet products out of a small storefront. When the pandemic hit, it opened Offenbacher’s eyes to an underserved need in the community.

“In 2020, the world shut down, and thus most of our pet-care services weren’t needed — travel and demand for daily dog-walking services were at an all-time low,” Offenbacher said. “At the same time, pet parents were stopping into our smaller, original store asking for a greater selection of pet supplies because online and big box retailers were having a hard time stocking their shelves. I saw a big gap — our walkable, dog-friendly neighborhood didn’t have a full-service pet retail store!”

The new and expanded City of Paws retail store has been so popular with community members that Offenbacher has started to phase out pet care services to focus his energy on the store.

[Read more: How 3 Brands Turned Pandemic Pivots Into Long-Term Business Gains]

I think that’s all the marketing we need — our customers understand that we’re in this to help them provide the best for their pets and that we truly value the relationship we’ve built with them.

Danny Offenbacher, owner, City of Paws Pet Care

Expand while maintaining the values you believe in

Expanding a business does not come without its challenges, especially post-pandemic. Offenbacher struggled with several aspects of business ownership that he’s worked hard to overcome in the last few years, including trouble with staffing and delays due to supply chain issues.

Despite these challenges, Offenbacher’s customers continue to come back because he offers a service that makes City of Paws stand out from big-name retailers.

“We offer a personal shopping experience that’s immediately felt upon entering our store,” he said. “We get to know our customers and their pets and they become like family.”

Shoppers ask Offenbacher for nutrition advice or questions about pet health, and he always does his best to assist however he can.

“I think that’s all the marketing we need — our customers understand that we’re in this to help them provide the best for their pets and that we truly value the relationship we’ve built with them,” he said.

Throwing out his predetermined plans and reimagining the scope of his business over the last two years has allowed Offenbacher to continue doing what he loves most: caring for animals.

“My favorite part of owning a pet store is being able to make a positive difference in the lives of pets and people,” he said. “It’s super rewarding to be able to make a recommendation or provide a solution that impacts their pet’s life in such a positive way.”

[Read more: How To Create ‘Superfans’ For Your Business]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Follow us on Instagram for more expert tips & business owners’ stories.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.