Truman: a Cockapoo. Hank and Bruce: eight-pound Yorkies. Puccini: a Maltese mix.
For these dogs, Evanston pet store Follow Your Nose aims to provide a puppy paradise.
Follow Your Nose offers grooming and care services, food, toys and various products for pets. Owner Ramie Gulyas said she helps customers find nutritious food for their pets, working with companies known for sustainable practices.
“Being a neighborhood store and being the only independent pet store in Evanston, we know these people,” Gulyas said. “I want them to be able to trust whatever they get here.”
Gulyas started her business as a dog walking service in 1998 with her husband. Through the years, Follow Your Nose changed locations and eventually moved to 917 Chicago Ave., where it has remained for the past 11 years.
Most of the store’s pet food brands are from Canadian or European companies, Gulyas said, because the countries’ regulations help ensure better quality ingredients. According to her, the store tries to carry brands that don’t have any recalls for production issues.
“If your pet food is being recalled, then you need to look for another brand entirely,” Gulyas said. “Every single company, I know exactly … how everything is being made, where it’s being made.”
In the back of the store, stacked tins of cat food from the family-owned business Weruva cover the wall. Judy Washer, a representative for Weruva who often visits the store, said Gulyas’ knowledge of nutrition distinguishes Follow Your Nose from other chain pet stores. Gulyas cited publications, trade shows and pet company representatives like Washer as her knowledge base.
“It’s really learning on your own, because there’s a lot of different information out there,” Washer said. “A good pet store owner does her own research.”
According to Gulyas, veterinarians aren’t required to receive nutrition training. She said she takes it upon herself to educate her customers about nutritious food options for their pets.
Jan Agnello, a former customer and current employee, said Gulyas helped her choose a different brand of dog food after her dog Beaux experienced stomach troubles. She said the problems went away with Beaux’s reformulated diet.
“What you put into your pet is just like (it is for) a human,” Agnello said. “The better products you put (into pets), the better their health. The same thing for humans, the better food we eat, the better our health.”
Despite pandemic challenges related to supply chain issues, the store saw an increase in new pet owners as more people began adopting animals, according to Gulyas.
Gulyas said pet ownership has a learning curve, so Follow Your Nose serves as an educational space for novices.
“What we do is educate people,” Gulyas said. “We’re here to … help the person who really has no clue what they even need.”
For owners who work from home, the store carries toys to help keep their pets occupied. Mental stimulation is good for dogs, but it also keeps them from being destructive while the owners are working, Gulyas said.
As a fluffy labradoodle strolls into the store, employees crowd around the wagging animal, offering treats and affirmations like, “Such a good boy!” Gulyas said she loves interacting with her neighborhood through their mutual love of pets.
Ultimately, Agnello said Follow Your Nose has the ability, as a local business, to fulfill what Evanston residents want.
“(Local businesses) grow organically,” Agnello said. “You become part of your neighborhood and you see what your neighborhood needs.”
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