BY KRIS HARRIS
Mike Palmer grew up knowing, one day, he wanted to own his own business. He had family members who owned businesses in the grocery industry, but it was his uncle’s venture opening a pet supply store, that would clear a patch for him. “My uncle, Raymond Hesano, originally opened Premiere Pet Supply back in 1992,” said Palmer. “He had a good grocery background and coming from that, he knew exactly what it took to provide a great retail setting, so it was a clean, well lit, fully stocked store. I started to work for him when I graduated High School in ‘94.”
It was something that Palmer did, part-time, while taking business classes in college. “I learned, really quickly, what a great business this is because people take such great care of their pets and treat them like family; sometimes ever better than their own kids,” joked Palmer. “And recognizing that, at a young age, I saw the potential for the business and something I really wanted to be a part of.”
Over time, Palmer took on more and more responsibilities, so that his uncle wouldn’t have to work at the store as much. “I started running it, and kind-of took the ball and ran with it,” Palmer said. “We’ve been very fortunate over the years, being a single, independent store. We have become one of the highest volume single, independent, pet supply stores in the mid-west.”
Getting into the pet supply business wouldn’t seem to be odd, but in the Chaldean community, it can be a bit of a head-scratcher. “Raised with a Chaldean mother, I didn’t have many pets in the house, so this wasn’t necessarily a business I truly expected to find myself being in and ultimately owning,” Palmer said. “But, having a business mind, I quickly learned how great a business is was and what a wonderful opportunity it was.”
Premiere Pet Supply is a full-line pet supply store, but has found a way to separate itself from the chain-stores. “We carry everything imaginable for any household pet, including supplies for wild birds and outdoor animals as well,” said Palmer. “We have recognizable National brands, but our niche has really been in the extensive inventory of holistic and natural products. We’re really one of the first independents in Michigan that carry the huge variety of those types of foods, treats, and supplements.”
Since taking over the original store, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, Palmer has partnered with close friends and fellow pet lovers to open three new locations. All three of the new stores opened last year, in 2016. Jeff Nagarah runs the Rochester Hills store which is located at 63 W. Auburn Road, Brandon Phorne operates the Novi store located at 47810 Grand River Avenue, and Steve Shamou has the Livonia store which is located at 15399 Merriman Road.
Premiere Pet Supply has developed the reputation as a store that offers not only products, but advice on how best to care for your pet. “People have known us, over the years, to be very knowledgeable in the products that we sell and for having items that, through diets and proper supplementation, can off-set the need for medicines and things like that,” explained Palmer “ So people sometimes come to us for advice prior to going to the vet, but we’re always very careful and recommend people consult with their veterinarian.”
One of the more popular services they offer is the custom do-it-yourself dog washing rooms. “They are an up-right tub,” explained Palmer. “People can come in, use high-end shampoos and conditioners, and grooming tools. You can blow dry or towel-dry your dog and leave the mess with us. People find it highly advantageous, because it’s not very ideal or convenient to do it at your home.”
Reaching out and helping the community is important to Premiere Pet Supply, which is why it gets involved in various events, whether it means hosting them in-store or teaming up with outside organizations. “Any type of community event regarding animals, or the benefit and welfare of animals, we’re always involved in,” Palmer said. “We are partnered up with a lot of local rescues, and have dog adoption events every weekend at all our stores. The Humane Society has cats in our stores, 7-days a week that we provide for adoption. So rescue is a big proponent of what we do.”
Education is also important, which is why Palmer visits schools to help kids understand the responsibility of owning a pet. “We do presentations and bring in animals to give kids an opportunity to see them up close and personal,” Palmer said. “The kids get to learn about compassion and responsibility, and that animal ownership is a serious thing. We explain to them that it’s something that you do for the right reasons, which is why we try to teach and educate them on what they’re getting into.”
One of the biggest changes Palmer has seen over the yearsis in his own community’s willingness to open up and bring pets into their homes. “I think in general, for a lot of old-school Chaldeans, not a lot of attention is paid to animals or pets, so I think they were looked at as more of a nuisance,” said Palmer. “But with the younger generation, especially with the millennial-aged Chaldeans becoming more Americanized, they’re more open to having pets. My Mother’s mentality was you can have a dog when you move out of the house, when you don’t live here.”
Well, Palmer did move out and finally got his pet, a Silky Terrier they named Bruno. Unfortunately, the family dog recently passed away. “He had so much personality,” recalled Palmer.
The recent change that Palmer has seen in the Chaldean community, is the same type of change Palmer was willing to make, years ago, when he decided to follow in his uncle’s footsteps in the pet industry.