Originally Posted on fosters.com
By Andrea Bulfinch
John Huff/Staff photographer Craig Maggio holds his faithful dog Tommy in front of his soon to be open Friendly Pets on Route 4 in Lee recently.
LEE — Inspired by the love for his own canine companions, a local entrepreneur is fixing up what he hopes will be a friendly spot for pets and their owners.
Friendly Pets is set to open mid-May at the Lee Traffic Circle with owner Craig Maggio and his mutt companion, Tommy, ready to welcome guests and shoppers.
“The area needs it,” Maggio, a Dover High School graduate, said. “People deserve a better place to walk into than one of the big box stores.”
The store will feature a variety of small and exotic animals housed in 25 units and each month will feature a rescue dog through a partnership with a local shelter.
Aquatics will also be a staple of the store with 40 aquariums and a fish pond built into the 4,000-square-foot space, which Maggio will construct himself.
His dog, Enzo, was killed when he was struck by a vehicle. Maggio said that in his former job he had been doing a lot of running around and at this point in his life after adopting Tommy he wants to do something to help animals.
“I was devastated,” he said about losing Enzo.
That prompted him to do something both he and Tommy could enjoy.
“I want to be with my dog every day at work,” he said.
As a former sommelier for a Florida restaurant, Maggio said he wants to bring that type of care and knowledge to everyone who walks through the doors.
“I want to bring that level of concierge type service to retail,” he said.
The store will feature mainstream brands, and also organic and alternative options for pet owners. Maggio said if something isn’t available at his store, it will be available for special order.
The branding of the shop, which will offer a self-serve dog wash, was something Maggio put a lot of thought and effort into.
Already on Facebook, Friendly Pets is gaining a core of followers where soon-to-be customers can upload photos of themselves and their pets.
“I want to see everyone’s pets,” he said.
And not only that, he wants to be a really integrated part of the community.
“I think we’re going to be good,” he said of the business.
His fiance Katie Hatfield is daughter of the former owner of Tri-City aquarium and Maggio said he brought much of that staff on board for his new store.
He said Hatfield has a wealth of knowledge in the supply industry and will help with that aspect of the store.
“The area just needs it,” he said as construction workers continued to chip away at making the retail space a reality.
On May 18, opening day, Maggio wants to throw a big party to welcome patrons and pets into the new store.
“It’s a labor of love,” he said.