Come July, Menlo Park's four-legged residents will lose out on a favorite spot to score free treats and friendly pats, and those who care for them will lose a community institution.
The Pet Place, a longtime Santa Cruz Avenue pet supply store co-owned by Marc and Lynn Macy, is set to close its doors for good at the end of June after 28 years in business.
The main reason it's closing, Marc Macy said, is because he and his wife of 41 years are exhausted and worn out. They've been running the store six days a week and are in their mid-60s.
"It's time," he said.
Another big reason: "The internet is just killing us. It has for a few years now," he said.
Amazon, plus new online retail services targeted to pet owners, like Chewy.com and BarkBox, have really hurt sales in the last several years, he said.
About two weeks before the COVID-19 shutdowns began, Marc Macy said, the couple agreed to extend their lease only until the end of June. They'd already dipped into their savings to stay afloat in the hopes that business would get better.
Then the pandemic hit, which meant trouble for many small, independent retailers. While the couple's store has remained open as an essential business, income slumped steeply. "It is absolutely crushing us," Lynn and Marc Macy said in a handwritten letter to the community at their store.
The shutdowns have made it difficult to even initiate the work of closing down their business, Marc Macy said. Selling inventory, fixtures and equipment is harder with social distancing requirements and a reduced capacity inside the store, he said.
There's simply a lot of stuff in the store, and they have to clear it out by the end of the month. "I think it's harder to close a business than it is to open one," he said.
Fortunately, he said, a number of loyal customers and community members have offered to help, partly because he and his wife have taken pride in always going the extra mile for their customers.
One customer has set up a GoFundMe fundraising campaign for the Macys.
The shop is one where customers stop in with all kinds of questions, and the store helps them find answers, whether it's through referrals or their own expertise. They've also sought to help homeless and disabled animals, Marc Macy said.
"The Pet Place was like a child of ours for 28 years," he said.
When they first decided to open the shop, Marc had been working as a pet photographer locally and Lynn worked at Stanford. They adopted a German shepherd named Smokey and got to know the people who owned the local pet store. When they found out the owner was selling the business, they decided to take it over, he said.
Over the years, the Pet Place won 27 of The Almanac's Readers' Choice awards and was recognized as the Business of the Year by the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce in its annual Golden Acorn awards ceremony. They've been invited to serve on the boards of various local animal humane societies.
Marc Macy reflected on why the store has become so valued by the community. "I think it's because the Pet Place is a labor of love," he said. "For one thing, we didn't go into it thinking 'Gee, we can make some money doing this.' ... We've loved animals since birth and have always been involved."
The business has taken a toll both physical and emotional, the Macys wrote in their letter to the community.
"The business has been physically demanding and also very emotional because of the level of personal involvement with our beloved customers and animals. It is not a business where you just lock the door at closing and go home. There is a profound bond with the community," they wrote.
"Once we recover and the sadness starts to wear away, we'll be fine," Marc Macy said. "We have so many things in life we love that we really have hardly any time to do."
The couple met playing tennis and hope to get back out on the tennis courts together after the shop is closed. They also enjoy hiking, mountain biking and spending time at home with their three cats and their garden.