The Beginning:

Next to Nature was founded in 1995 by Liz and Paul Laballarte to provide healthy pet treats and foods and quality accessories to the pet lovers of West Seattle.  Liz, as the daughter of the owners of Crown Hill Pet, had extensive experience in pet supplies retailing and wanted to offer healthier alternatives to the products then offered at the local big-box chains.  With their family growing, Liz and Paul decided to sell Next to Nature to one of their employees, Summer Preston, in August of 1998.  Summer had likewise been involved in retail pet supplies for quite a while and brought the same passion for quality products and love for animals to Next to Nature.  Starting just after Summer took over, we, the current owners of Next to Nature, became customers of Next to Nature trying to find solutions to various health issues that were affecting our then 5 year-old chocolate lab, Weston.  After being satisfied customers for the next few years and liking the results we observed with Weston (and our other pets) on the higher quality foods available at Next to Nature, we were surprised by Summer during one of our visits when she asked if we'd be interested in buying the store.  She and her fiancÚ, Patrick, had decided they wanted to move to Belfair and open a dog rescue/boarding/training facility.  One thing led to another, and we took over Next to Nature in June of 2001.  We later opened our Tacoma facility in March of 2003 and our location in Edmonds in November of 2003.

Our Focus:

Since our beginning, we have focused Next to Nature on offering only the best foods, treats, supplements, and accessories that we can find.  We know we can't be everything to everyone, so we decided to simply do the best for pets that we can.  So, if you're looking for cheap pet foods, don't bother us.  If you want us to get you many of the nationally advertised brands, don't bother us.  If you want to complain about the high(er) cost of feeding pet foods made from human-grade ingredients, don't bother us.   It's not that we're more expensive than other stores, or snooty, or even 'food nazis', but to us, quite simply, proper nutrition is the foundation upon which happy, healthy pet lives are built and if you cannot or are unwilling to invest your money and/or time in finding the best diet for your pet, you really shouldn't be a pet caretaker.  

If, however, you are concerned about the affects of GMO foodstuffs on us and our pets, if you don't believe in using hormones to promote abnormal growth in livestock, if you worry about your pet always getting yet another shot of prednisone and a yet another round of anti-biotics for health issues that never really go away, if you want to feel that you have a partner in trying to provide the best foods, treats, supplements, toys, and accessories for your pet...then we should talk.  We are not perfect, but we work very hard at having highly-trained, knowledgeable staff, we pride ourselves on our service ethic, we select products to sell very carefully and get rid of products very quickly when they fail us and our customers.

A 'Bad 'Example...

For example, many people became exposed for the first time to some of the inner workings of the pet food industry during the melamine-contaminated wheat gluten and rice-proteinate scandal of March 2007.  One company that was involved was one that we had only fairly recently before that time brought in to sell, partly because they offered an 'allergenic' formulation for cats that was based entirely on venison and green pea.  We recommended this food and many people adopted this food for their cats because it was free of any poultry and any gluten protein which can cause issues for a small percentage of cats.  Well surprise, surprise when this food was listed on the 'recall' list because the company, WITHOUT NOTIFICATION, had modified the ingredient list, most likely to reduce its cost, to include 'white rice proteinate' which had been, unbeknownst to the company, spiked with melamine to raise the tested protein levels.  Now, any company could be burned by the purposeful and illegal adulteration of a listed ingredient by a supplier, but this is case where the manufacturer altered this food surreptitiously and got 'caught' only by mistake.  We do regularly re-check our product's ingredient lists to protect our customers against this scenario, but even the best vigilance on our part cannot protect your pet perfectly against a willful manipulation of a foods' ingredient list.  So, that product, along with EVERY OTHER PRODUCT made by that company will never be sold again in any Next to Nature.  Unfortunately, the company was later also involved in a canned food recall for botulism.  As the Scottish proverb goes:  "Fool me once, shame on thee; fool me twice, shame on me."  Your pet's health and nutrition are very serious to us; we do our best to ensure manufacturers don't fool us, and you, ever, yet alone twice, and given the ever-increasing number of quality manufacturers it is relatively easy for us to select for higher and higher quality foods and treats in the marketplace, so our vigilance does not mean decreased selection, just increased quality.

Next to Nature: More Than A Name...

In conclusion, Next to Nature is a small company with a big dream: providing your pet with proper nutrition and an improved quality of life.  We firmly believe that, while 'natural' does not necessarily mean 'optimal', since we and our pets evolved as part of nature, we both can utilize and at worst deal with most things that occur naturally and we both do poorly with things that we didn't evolve to deal with since they weren't in our environment until recently: artificial colors, artificial preservatives, partially-hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, fractionated grains, meats laced with antibiotics, etc.  Next to Nature is not just the name of our company; it is the core philosophy of how we choose what we offer for you and your pet.

Thank you for taking the time to get to know us a bit better.

Sincerely,

B. and C.