Our Islands, Our Future

Susan and John Guard

Since opening in November 1973, Maui pet lovers have found a friend at The Pet Shop. In fact, the relationship of being a friend is the motto of the nearly 40-year-old business, said John Guard, president and founder. “Our primary selling proposition is ‘where you’ve got a friend — since 1973,” he said. Further, The Pet Shop’s mission is “providing quality pets and pet supplies to the pet-loving population of Maui, sold with a spirit of Aloha.”

The business has grown along with Maui, which only had a resident population of around 40,000 in 1973. Guard said that when the business opened then, he had a staff of three — himself, his wife, Susan, and one employee. “Today we currently employ nine others, in addition to ourselves,” he said. Guard credits his business’ success to taking a long view. “I’ve always held the attitude that I wasn’t in this for the short term, always the long term,” he said. “That meant working hard to build long-lasting, trusting relationships with our customers.”

Guard says his business aim is “to operate with integrity and aloha in all dealings, both with customers as well as vendors,” he said. “We like to treat them as friends.” As a result of this approach, Guard explains, The Pet Shop has grown to become a part of the Maui community. “Our business has grown from an initial 712-square-foot store, and after numerous expansions over the years, we now occupy over 5,300 square feet — and our front door has never moved. “Our growth has involved numerous local construction crews. We advertise with local media. All the animals we currently sell are locally raised (with the exception of the tropical fish, although we do buy many locally). Of course, all of our profits remain on Maui.” The Pet Shop was voted Retail Business of the Year for Maui County in 2007 by the Retail Merchants of Hawaii. Last year, it was awarded the Certificate of Outstanding Achievement by Mayor Alan Arakawa at the Maui County Small Business Awards. In 2012, it was voted “Best Pet Shop on Maui” by “Hawaii on TV.”