Pussy & Pooch Long Beach

 Rob Gaudio, shop dog Jaxxon and Janene Zakrajsek

Instead of celebrating a decade of serving Belmont Shore's humans and pets, Pussy & Pooch will be closing their Long Beach doors permanently around the end of July.

"It’s been 10 years, and we’ve had some really good times here on Second Street, but our lease is up for renewal and it's not something we’re interested in moving forward with," co-owner Rob Gaudio said.

Together with his wife, Janene Zakrajsek, the two "pawtrepeneurs" opened three locations: one in Beverly Hills, another in Los Angeles and one in Long Beach. Last year, the pair closed their Beverly Hills location, and next month, the Long Beach store will follow suit.

"This isn't something that we want to do, but staying open doesn't make sense anymore either," Gaudio said. 

The reason for closing is cut and dry, the couple said. The amount that the storefront brings in doesn't make the cost of operation worth it anymore, and making decisions like this are just a part of the cost of doing business.

Pussy & Pooch Closing

A sign in front of Pussy & Pooch on Second Street bids notice to the Belmont Shore closure.

"Our situation is not dire, but we’re also a for-profit business and the effort needs to be worth it," he said.

Although the news is sudden in the midst of other area shops announcing their close, both Gaudio and Zakrajsek caution shoppers from placing the blame on Belmont Shore landlords and rising rents.

"Our landlord is one of the best we've ever had, she’s been great," he said. "The community tries to blame the landlord, but when people spend money in places other than their own community, this is what can happen."

The pair points their focus of blame towards websites like Amazon and Chewy, popular go-tos for pet owners shopping for pet supplies. Their message isn't to shame other people's shopping choices, but rather to bring awareness to consequences surrounding shopping outside of one's neighborhood.

"It's really the community that loses out when shops close, whether they're pet stores, clothing or grocery stores," Zakrajsek said. "Online shopping is impersonal and you don't get the service that you do from neighborhood stores."

Part of her service is educating customers who have specific questions about pet food, grooming services and other pet-related inquiries. Zakrajsek said that she often helps customers pick out diet-specific foods for fuzzy friends or suggests dietary supplements to patrons who express concerns about the health of their pets — all things that can't really be accomplished when shopping online. Her work was about more than selling pet items, she added.

"It's disappointing," she said. "We've always been more than just a pet store."

But they're also not interested in making their Long Beach story appear overly negative, they said, adding that they're proud of the impact they've been able to make in the Long Beach neighborhood, and it's time to look at what Pussy & Pooch can accomplish next.

Pussy & Pooch: Sale

The Long Beach location is offering closing specials on most of its merchandise.

“I don't want this to be another negative story for Second Street, but I do want to encourage people to support their community. Online shopping might help individuals, but the community suffers for it," Gaudio said.

"We're looking at what's in our future, and it might be more focus on strengthening our web presence and what we offer from our website," Zakrajsek said. "We don't know for sure yet, and we might wish it was different, but we have to move forward if we want our business to keep working."

In the meantime, Belmont Shore's Pussy & Pooch location will remain open with clearance sales until the inventory runs out. Grooming services, like baths and haircuts, still will be offered as well. 

During Belmont Shore's Stroll & Savor event on Thursday, July 18, the location also will host a mixer — and the public is invited. Drinks and small bites will be provided.

"We want to keep this positive, and would love it if people stopped by and just said hello," Zakrajsek said. "We have a lot of memories here and have made a lot of friends, so for that, we're thankful."

Belmont Shore's Pussy & Pooch is 4818 E. Second St.

The downtown Los Angeles location will remain open for the foreseeable future. For more information, go to pussyandpooch.com/belmont-shore.

Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at sstutzman@gazettes.com.

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