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.
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
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.
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.
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.
B. and C.