Sirius Cooks for Serious Dog and Cat Nutrition at a Fair Price

by Mary Haight on June 17, 2009

My neighbor and I met while walking our dogs. One thing leads to another…as it does with dog people…and I was telling her what a tough time I have trying to get all the nutrition Tashi needs in his diet, as I cook for him. He’s a rescue and nutrition in his previous life had been very poor. Kibble is out of the question, not being tolerated sometimes at either end of his digestive system, no matter what brand or ingredients of organics I used.

Sirius Cooks Oak Park

Sirius Cooks Oak Park

My neighbor suggested I go to Sirius Cooks, 142 Harrison in Oak Park. She said she had used their fresh meals to help her dog lose weight painlessly and healthfully.  I had to laugh and said, “what, you mean it’s Seattle Sutton’s for dogs?”

I met with Hattie Coles and Julie Kreiner, owners of Sirius Cooks, whose study of nutrition and healthy food for dogs and cats came about because their own furry ones had various maladies that subsequently cleared up with their home made meals. Here’s the Q&A:

What was the main driver that had you and your partner jumping into the fray of the specialty pet food niche? You opened a little over a year-and-a-half ago in 2007, in some of the worst economic times we’ve seen.

Julie: We had been cooking for our own dogs and cats and saw amazing results. Dandruff on their cats disappeared, as did lymph fatty deposits. Healthy coats were the result. We studied food and cooking at home for over five years, testing all recipes through a lab (as in laboratory, not Labrador:) for proper nutrition and ratios [carb to protein, vegetables, fruits, et. al].

Hattie: When the first food recall in 2007 occurred, we were primed, ready, and jumped in.

Julie: The Oak Park community is one that is open to new ideas, and we had been living in Oak Park and were involved with many local organizations before opening their store. Hattie is a past president and current supporter of Oak Park’s Animal Care League. Sirius Cooks works to raise funds for animals, and showcase other pet industry businesses with the same holistic outlook on serving the customers and the community.

How do you choose the food products you offer?

Julie: We test recipes to make certain the food values are in accord with Nutrition Council guidelines, and not Association Of American Feed Control Officials, AAFCO, an acronym you will notice on many pet food labels. AAFCO has to do with State government. Guidelines differ from state to state, varying so vastly as to allow one dog to die during testing, and still pass the food as nutritionally complete.

Hattie: Nutritional analysis of food for dogs and cats from the Nutrition Council guidelines have higher standards than AAFCO. Since results of tests at AAFCO are all self-reported by the makers, and one dog can die and the maker can still “pass”, what is the real value this agency confers?

How has business been this year?

Hattie: We’ve seen a steady rise in customers, many of whom switch from kibble to raw or to Sirius Cooks special home cooked menu items with the high quality kibble we offer. Results can be seen fairly quickly depending on the problem. Hair loss, dull coats, dry skin, and lack of energy are all issues that have been changed by this change in diet.

Julie: We work with distributors to keep the food at a reasonable price and make enough profit to carry on their mission: to make sell and distribute the finest quality dog and cat foods, operate on a sustainable financial basis to provide value to stakeholders, and to carry out the socially responsible endeavors they undertake to benefit the community.

Would you describe your business model and tell me what made you choose it?

Hattie: We looked at Ben & Jerry’s and The Body Shop models. We focus on dogs and cats, family life, nutrition, working with holistic vets and trainers, kindness.

Julie: Although we have a store now, we initially thought we should first use the web, but then decided what we really wanted was a deep connection to community. (Hence the holistic, socially responsible model they chose)

To what do you attribute your growth?

Julie: Networking in the community and word of mouth have been our best avenues for growth.

Do you have plans for expansion or franchising in the next couple of years?

Hattie: We don’t want to be Target but we do have plans in the works for a larger shop. We want to have the venue to better showcase products and community space for talks by experts in the field on nutrition and other interests.

What was the best decision you’ve made so far?

Julie: A shop became available, and although they were not yet considering bricks and sticks, we loved the artsy neighborhood, and took a chance.
The surprise came when we made 50% more sales than projected.

What do you do that your competition does not?

Julie: Hattie and I find that food and a companion animal’s proper nutrition is personal and that relating this essential information requires time-something we provide to our customers in abundance. Our seminars given by third parties in the pet care industry build on the knowledge base we work to provide every day.

How do you choose the 3rd party brands you carry?

Hattie: We have an evaluation process based on ingredients followed by holistic business practices.  Some of our available brands are Evanger’s,an Illinois company, Mulligan Stew, Petcurean canned, and dry foods from Orijen, Fromm, Innova. Many others are available. Raw foods by Brave, Wild Kitty and Stella & Chewys are a few of the products carried.

What percentage of your business is dog versus cat foods?

Julie: We opened with both, and it’s a 20/80% mix cat to dog.

That’s as much as 50% more sales in cat foods that the industry norm!

Hattie: Cats are so finicky, people don’t want to chance upsetting them with new food. Yet kidney disease is so prevalent in cats who are subject to chronic dehydration. The best avenue to stop the development of the disease is through foods with the moisture content needed, a low or no grain food, home-cooked, or raw.

Sirius foods are preventive and proactive, giving your furry friend the best chance for a long healthy life.  And  90% of our customers are repeat customers.

Julie: Sirius Cooks’ home-made single protein pints of fresh meals are made of organics where possible, USDA grade meats and human-grade fruits and vegetables : Chicken Stew; TobyDog Beef Stew; Deaglan’s Lamb Stew; Lolly’s Salmon and Sardine Stew; and Chloe’s Turkey Stew, are all fresh cooked and a new single protein is available every day.

By the way, I should mention that Tashi is enthralled with the Chicken Stew

Thanks to Hattie and Julie for coming in early to spend lots of time talking about the importance of nutrition and the role Sirius Cooks plays in providing the best possible foods for their community’s four-legged family members.

Stop in and chat for more information or call 708.358.0100

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Previous post:

Next post: