|This sculpted dog that greets visitors at the Reign of Cats and Dogs doesn’t actually drink from a dog dish. It does show off off some of the fashions available at Kim Williams Leesburg store. Times-Mirror Staff Photo/John Geddie|
In the U.S., 165 million dogs and cats have somewhere to call home. And they are all hoping their owners come through that door with a brand new toy.
Nine years ago, Kim Williams was looking for ideas for a shop to open up. She had found the perfect spot on King Street to rent, but she wasn’t sure what the shop would sell. Her great idea came from looking down at her pets — and Reign of Cats and Dogs was born.
“Since I was on King Street, I wanted to play on the royalty theme,” says Williams.
So twisting on the cliché, “raining cats and dogs,” she decorated her store with crowns. After all, what pet owner isn’t completely ruled by their pets?
Unlike big box pet stores with clinically cold walls and warehouse shelving, Reign of Cats and Dogs offers a warm fun place to shop for your pet in Leesburg. And yes, your pets are invited to come along to the shop
The clientele is mostly dog owners, about 85 percent estimates Williams. This division all comes down to the inherent natures of cats versus dogs. Cats tend to be more self-reliant — especially when it comes to entertaining themselves. Who hasn’t spent money on an expensive cat toy only to see your cat enthralled with the plastic ring from the milk jug? However, many believe cats do this purely out of spite.
Cats also tend to handle boredom a bit better. Although they’ll scratch things to sharpen their claws, generally cats don’t chew on shoes, belts, and other leather goods that maybe their owners were planning to keep.
“Cats are more independent. But when dogs get bored, they can get destructive,” says Williams. Dogs however make up for this less-than-endearing trait by being willing to give you the time of day, unlike a cat.
Since its opening, Reign of Cats and Dogs has tripled in size, but not without some hurdles to jump. During the economic downturn, Williams had to take a tough look at her store and what was on its shelves.
Fewer people were coming in for the eclectic and frivolous dog accessories. She started making more room for the more everyday items, things that every pet owner would need regularly, rather than the one-time splurge gift for the pampered pet. She stocked more treats and toys, and fewer glitzy collars.
Today, the store carries a wide range of dog treats, toys, and beds, in addition to chews. The chews are not your standard rawhide. Instead, Williams carries U.S. sourced natural chews that can dissuade the most stubborn shoe-lover from your closet. One kind of treat is made from dehydrated sweet potatoes. Not only are dried sweet potatoes chewy and provide the same dental benefits as rawhide, they are also high in vitamins, especially A. These treats, like many in the store, are made using human-grade ingredients.
Williams also carries many wheat-free treats, perfect for dogs who suffer from allergies or are trying to avoid carbohydrates for health reasons, such as diabetes.
Before you start feeling sorry for the cats, there’s also a full range of toys and gifts for them — though obviously no clothing since Williams would prefer cat owners not be killed by their animals. The cat toys are mostly catnip-based. Catnip is related to the mint family, and is sometimes an ingredient in teas. However, give it to a susceptible cat, and you’ll find them purring, drooling, and chasing after imaginary objects.
And it’s not just your regular household pet that finds the mint fascinating. Some studies have shown similar effects in lions and tigers. If your cat doesn’t seem to get the charge from catnip, she might be one of the 30 percent of cats that just thinks the green stuff smells a bit funny. May we recommend the plastic ring from around the milk jug top?
But don’t think the store has forgotten the pet owners in the midst of the dog treats and cat nip. “This is a great place to get a unique gift for a friend who loves their pet,” says Williams. The store carries breed-specific artwork and mugs, as well as cat and dog topiary kits. These have wire frames filled with live moss, add some grasses or herbs and you’ve got a one-of-a-kind garden accessory
The store is open 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, and the customers vary significantly during the week.
“I have a lot of tourists on Saturdays, but during the week, I have a lot of repeat customers,” says Williams.
Many of the “regulars” come in, looking to restock on treats and toys that only Reign of Cats and Dogs sells. And when the occasional non-pet owner comes in, Williams can help them find the ideal gift for a friend. She also can put them in touch with some of the many animal rescue shelters in the area that Williams and the store actively supports.
Although many pet owners get the basic food and litter from the larger pet supply store, Reign of Cats and Dogs provides a fun and vibrant place to pick up cat toys, dog treats, and more off-the-beaten-path supplies that can make your furry friend feel pampered and loved — and maybe even a bit like royalty.
This business profile was originally published in the LTM's "Downtown Leesburg" publication for third quarter 2013.
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