by Andrew Alonzo | firstname.lastname@example.org
Three years ago, owner of the kennel Papa Bear Bullies, Miguel Lopez made the 300-mile trek down the 10 Freeway from Los Angeles to Phoenix for a dog event hosted at The Pitbull Store, an Arizona-based dog supply and event store.
It was the first time Lopez had set foot in the store and he recalled that sometime during the event, he met the store’s owners, a married couple, Tel Barnhart and Amy Woodiwiss
“The owners and I got to talking and they wanted to hang a shirt of my kennel [Papa Bear Bullies] in their store to promote me for free. As you can see behind me, I got a bunch of shirts that are framed. They wanted to do the same for me for free and from there the relationship just grew,” Lopez said.
In the subsequent months, he and the Arizona couple began going to dog shows in Texas, Arizona and up and down the California coast. Eventually, an offer to expand the Pitbull Store to California was suggested by the Arizona owners and accepted by Lopez and his wife Lisa.
When the opportunity to work with dogs every day came to the 41-year-old Victorville native, he quit his job at Victorville’s Arm and Hammer distribution center, where he had worked for over 15 years. He said he quit his job simply because he believed in the business and vision of The Pitbull Store so much.
“I left it to start this because of my dedication to dogs,” Lopez said. “I just love the idea of the dog, period. And I just saw something that just needed to come to California, something I know and full hard believe that is going to expand and grow and become something big.”
On October 4, 2021, Lopez opened the doors to the first California location of The Pitbull Store. Today, Lopez is usually seen behind the counter of Claremont’s newest dog supply store along with his family. Lopez, his wife, Tel and Amy all share ownership of the Claremont location.
Despite its name, Lopez emphasized the business is not a “pitbull-driven store,” rather a dog-driven store.
“We cater to all dogs and all breeds,” Lopez said. “We have food and we have supplements for all breeds, for dogs of any kind.”
From bulking supplements, all-natural dog foods, essential and over-the-counter medicine for dogs, to luxury leashes and chains, The Pitbull Store is a niche type of store for dogs, according to Lopez.
“We have Liquid Gold which is a good bulking supplement for breeders that like to have the bulking [size] to make them more appealing,” Lopez added about the inventory. “We also do have your regular medicine stuff for the dog, for that kennel cough and digestive, immune builder …We have your regular natural dog supplies for washing dogs and stuff like that.”
The Pitbull Store is located on Foothill Boulevard next to El Ranchero, but is just 0.2 miles away from Unleashed by Petco, and 1.8 miles away from Priceless Pets Rescue. So, what sets The Pitbull Store apart from the two established pet businesses in Claremont?
“We like to feel that we bring a different type of personal experience per customer. We’re going to ask about your dogs, their breed, we’re going to ask what you feed them, what types of allergies they might have,” Lopez said.
“We like to be personal. We want people to know who we are when they come in. [Like] ‘Hey Miguel! Hey Lisa! How are you doing?’ “We want that type of experience. To be different from your big conglomerate type environment stores.”
“We like to walk people around the store, point everything out to get their attention to everything and let them know that we’re here to take care of their dog. Whether it be dog food, all the way up to being sick,” Lopez added.
While human patrons are welcomed, Lopez emphasized that so are their four-legged friends.
“We service all dogs. We want to see your shi tzus, we want to see dachshunds, we want to see your rat terriers, we want to see your dogs more than anything,” Lopez said.
Those who stop with or without their pups can meet Lopez’s 120-lb. pitbull King Makua, who usually sits behind the desk with Lopez. Those wary of pitbulls can also ask Lopez to leave the king in his castle — his cage. However, the behemoth of a pitbull is just like any other dog, a mass of muscle who wants pets and attention.
The shop is not a rescue shelter like Priceless Pets, but Lopez said his team, made up of his family including his wife and two children, can help residents find new homes for dogs.
Lopez said clientele come from all across Southern California and Arizona to get a glimpse of the new California location.
With four stores already, three across Arizona and one now in California, Lopez said over the next five to 10 years, the business hopes to expand with additional locations in California.
“Going more toward the Redlands area, also going towards the L.A. area,” Lopez said. “And then the last one would be up in Victorville and is The Pitbull Store and Animal Supplies, so we will cater to your farmers and people up there who have animals and horses, cows, pigs and chickens.”
The Pitbull Store locations in Arizona are capable of performing ultrasounds on dogs, as well as artificial inseminations and semen analysis on dogs. Though still in its first phases of opening, Lopez hopes to bring those services 300 miles over to the Claremont location sometime in the future.
All locations, however, are capable of administering routine puppy vaccines. They don’t claim to be veterinarians, but have received training from a former veterinarian technician hired by The Pitbull Store.
The Pitbull Store is located at 994 W. Foothill Boulevard. The store is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., but closed on Sunday. For more information, visit thepitbullstore.com or call the store at (909) 929-0204.
“The Pitbull Store. Don’t be confused by the name, I know the name is misleading but we are a dog store. I just want people to understand that we’re here for all breeds of dogs … plus we want the people of Claremont to come in and embrace the store as part of this city,” he added.