Rally held in opposition of SF pet store

January 21, 2011 3:59:26 PM PST
Local pet store owners in San Francisco's Richmond District met with representatives of national pet supply store Petco Thursday night in an effort to convince them not to open business in the neighborhood.

About 60 people showed up at a community meeting at the Richmond Recreation Center, most against the proposal, according to John Todgya, who owns B&B Pet Supplies, a business located nearby.

Todgya leads a group of about 20 small business owners who are opposing larger chain pet stores in the city. He says there are already four pet supply stores within 12 blocks of each other on Geary Boulevard, near where Petco has proposed a location at 5411 Geary Boulevard.

"The neighborhoods are at stake here, and businesses are at stake," he said today.

There are currently two Petco stores in San Francisco, in the Inner Mission neighborhood and the Pine Lake Park neighborhood east of the San Francisco Zoo.

Todgya described those locations as "outer reaches, not in the neighborhood corridors."

Though the proposed store on Geary Boulevard is smaller than the regular Petco stores, Todgya called that "a wolf in sheep's clothing kind of thing," saying there is a trend among some chain stores "to physically reduce the size of the store and call themselves community."

Owners of the smaller local pet stores worry about being put out of business, and claim that their businesses keep more money within the community, as opposed to national chains.

"The independents around the city work years and years to develop a personal relationship with their customers," Todgya said.

Chain stores "try to poach in on all that hard work, so it's really a contentious issue," he said.

While Petco representatives at Thursday's meeting tried to answer the questions of concerned members of the public, Todgya said he expects the company will move forward and apply for a conditional use permit with the Planning Commission.

If the permit is granted, Todgya says his group will appeal with the Board of Supervisors.

"They know they're in for a big fight," he said.

Petco spokespeople did not return calls for comment Thursday and today.