Controversy despite Pet Food Express’ roots

September 07, 2010

C.W. Nevius, San Francisco Chronicle

In most cities if a local guy started a small business, built it up and came back to town to contribute to the greater good, City Hall would give him a proclamation. In San Francisco they try to keep him from opening another store.

Pet Food Express has become an improbable lightning rod for chew-toy controversy. The company, begun by Michael Levy 30 years ago, now has 35 outlets in the Bay Area and provides high-end pet foods and supplies and throws in events like homeless animal adoptions, low-cost vaccination clinics and dog-training classes.

The sticking point is that small, boutique pet shops think Pet Food Express will put them out of business. So, after a long, careful process to get the approval of the Planning Commission to open a store in the vacant Hollywood Video building in Laurel Village, the Board of Supervisors has gotten involved. Today, it will vote to on whether to overturn the conditional use permit and stop the opening.

Here's my take as a dog owner. We go to Pet Food Express to buy a 75-pound bag of dog food. We go to Snips and Tails (or whatever) to buy an adorable little doggie toy or for a grooming. Pets are huge in the city. There's room for both types of stores.

In fact, when Pet Food Express opened in the Castro, there were four small pet shops. Six years later there are seven.

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