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Pet products store includes a cat adoption center


AGAWAM – The new Dave’s Soda & Pet City at 151 Springfield St. is home to hundreds of birds, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, snakes and fish, but perhaps its special habitat is an adoption center for homeless cats.

“No one else in Western Massachusetts does this,” owner David A. Ratner said Thursday, standing outside the spacious and comfortably furnished cage that houses the felines at the back of his store. “There’s only one other store in all of Massachusetts that does this. They’re in Natick.”

“Now we have thousands of customers who are through here every week who can see these animals that are up for adoption,” Ratner said. “We thought it was the perfect tie-in.”

Susan M. Plourde, founder and president of Feline Friends Inc., which runs the adoption center, said, “This is wonderful. We’ve very grateful for the opportunity to do this (here). It gives the public the opportunity to see what animals are available for adoption.”

Ratner’s new store is big enough to allow him to offer other new options for animal lovers as well. These will include obedience classes for dogs taught by carefully selected trainers and a bathing area where owners can wash, dry and groom their pets.

The size of the store – at 25,000 square feet, it nearly doubles the size of his former quarters on Ramah Circle – has also allowed Ratner to become a full-fledged Agway distributor, featuring lawn, garden and related products, and to lease space to C&B Redemption Co., which recycles bottles and cans.

Ratner bought the former Ames building and parking lot on Springfield Street in 2006. The purchase price plus the cost of renovating and upgrading the facility and site has totaled approximately $3.5 million, he said.

In addition to the main store, the property includes about 12,000 square feet of warehouse and office space, plus another 30,000 square feet Ratner plans to divide into commercial spaces of 10,000 and 20,000 square feet. He already has a likely tenant for the larger storefront, he said.

Ratner has added about five or six employees to his local staff. He now has about 20 employees at the Agawam store.

He opened up his first outlet on Route 9 in Hadley in 1975, following that a year later with a store in Agawam on the Walnut Street Extension, which he eventually moved to Ramah Circle and now to Springfield Street. He also has stores on Carew Street in Springfield and on Route 5 in Northampton.

Asked how he came up with “Dave’s Soda and Pet City,” Ratner, 56, who was brought up in Springfield and now lives in Longmeadow, said, “When I opened up the first store, I was only selling soda. And then I bought a dog.”

Looking for dog food for his beagle Bentley one day in the former Food Mart here, he said, “I noticed that there was more pet food there than soda, and a lightbulb went off.”

Mayor Susan R. Dawson applauded Ratner’s move to Springfield Street.

“Anything that we can do to revitalize that part of our town, which is really the gateway to Agawam, is positive,” she said.

His customers seem to approve, as well.

“Some of the aisles were narrow (in the old store). Here you’ve got more space,” said Donna of West Springfield, who declined to give a last name. Wheeling her terrier-mix dog Noel around in a shopping cart, she added, “And too, I can bring my dog in here.”

“It looks like he’s got a lot more stuff (here),” said John R. Winters of Feeding Hills, buying pet food.

Agawam High School students are painting a series of murals for the store’s walls, and Ratner commended their work. “We’re a local business,” he said, “so we try to get the community involved.”

The new store opened Aug. 4, but as of this week was “only about 70 percent done,” Ratner said. A grand opening ceremony with participation from state and local officials is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Sept. 22, he said.

Dave Ratner featured in MassLive
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Posted in Articles, Pets on August 23, 2008 by Dave Ratner.
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