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Strawberry man to expand pet food chain in Mill Valley

May 14, 2012

Marin Independent Journal

Mill Valley

Since 1980, Strawberry resident Michael Levy has grown his retail chain, Pet Food Express, to nearly 600 employees and 42 locations from Carmel to Roseville, northeast of Sacramento. But it took 15 years for him to find a space in Southern Marin.

"There was just nothing that was appropriate," Levy said. The search officially ends Tuesday, when the 43rd store opens in the Alto Shopping Center in Mill Valley, just across Highway 101 from Levy's home.

"We want to be in a neighborhood where we are part of a neighborhood, where people can come shop," said Levy, who counts himself among the regulars at the Whole Foods Market in the shopping center.

Levy, 61, entered the pet business as a dog trainer, and his first retail store grew out of a training center in San Francisco. The chain has expanded steadily over the years throughout Northern California, including locations in downtown Novato, the Hamilton neighborhood of Novato and Terra Linda.

A native of New York City, Levy has lived in Marin on and off since 1973, and he moved to Strawberry 11 years ago.

The approximately 4,500-square-foot Mill Valley store at 743 E. Blithedale Ave. will include the company's typical lines of healthy pet foods and accessories, in addition to its self-serve pet washing stations. The washing stations will be offered free through June 3.
On Saturday and Sunday, the store will hold a fundraiser to provide firefighters in Mill Valley and nearby cities with kits including oxygen masks and other gear to resuscitate pets during emergencies. During the weekend the store will donate all proceeds from its Smart n' Tasty dog and cat treats and Clean n' Smart products to purchase the kits, which cost about $100 each.

By Will Jason

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