“The pet industry is full of fluff,” says Jason McIver, co-owner of The Pet Grocer in South Melbourne. “We’re flipping the perception that you [need to] pay more for cleaner food that works in a preventative manner, so you won’t need to go to the vet.”
The Pet Grocer specialises in premium preservative- and grain-free foods for dogs and cats, as well as natural health remedies. McIver and his wife Janine believe a natural diet helped their kelpie live 18 months longer than vets anticipated when she got sick with ligament damage.
Their Pet Pops, for example, contain nutrient-rich goat’s milk, slippery elm bark and coconut oil, which are beneficial for a dog’s skin and breath, and also settle an upset stomach, they say.
There’s preservative-free kangaroo, which is on the shelf within four days of harvest in Broken Hill, and is one of the store’s best sellers. The kangaroo arrives every Thursday, batched and sealed in one-kilogram pouches.
The original Pet Grocer is a stall at the South Melbourne Market that provides for a variety of animals. The sleek, architectural new Coventry Street space is more specialised, focusing on dogs and cats only.
The minimalist interior is largely concrete, steel and timber ply. The McIvers designed it themselves, with the help of a friend. Why does a pet store warrant such a high-end, designer interior? For the McIvers, the design reflects intent.
“The space is considered, the products are considered and so, the animal is considered,” says Jason.
The food range includes odd cuts of feet, brains, ears, wings, throats and bull penises (“bully sticks”), which can make people squirm at first. But the McIvers say it’s worth getting used to.
“These are all foods that animals would eat in the wild,” says Jason. “Cats and dogs aren’t fussy, they’re just not getting the proteins and real nutrition they need from processed foods.” He says mass-produced pet food provides only Band-Aid solutions to pet-health problems.
In the new year, The Pet Grocer will begin running exhibitions, seminars and events with its in-store veterinarian.
The store also stocks stylish pet products such as sleepwear, bedding, blankets, bowls and leads from designer pet brands including Howlpot from the US and Cloud7 and MiaCara from Germany.
"It’s ok if you come in and buy nothing,” Janine says. “It’s not about the money. It’s about the animal and the shift in perception.”
The Pet Grocer
249 Coventry Street, South Melbourne
Mon to Fri 9am–5.30pm
Sat & Sun 9am–5pm