By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Store owners Sam Cheung, Tony T. and Tony G. have been in the pet supply trade for about five years, but when their business started outgrowing the 200 square foot space in Chinatown, they looked to expand.
Alphapet City, the resulting store, opened on Avenue C at the beginning of March and Cheung said that the perfect space just fell into their laps.
“We could barely find a space this big anywhere in the city but this place had everything,” he said. “We didn’t have to buy a whole new (air conditioning) system. It was mostly just cosmetic work and repairs. This place wasn’t in the best shape but we just did everything ourselves and it worked out.”
The repairs Cheung is referring to were due to damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy. The store, which is two floors including a basement level, is on the same block as a number of other businesses that sustained serious basement flooding and water damage from the storm, on Avenue C between East 11th and 12th Streets. The C-Town next door was closed for months afterward and Ave. C Pharmacy on their other side lost most of its basement stock because of flooding damage.
But Cheung said that he isn’t worried, even though they had to push back the store’s opening from January because of those repairs that still needed to be made.
“You can’t really prepare for something like Sandy. It’s just too big,” he said, adding that one of the preparations they have made is to seal the basement with water resistant sealant.
Aside from being a supply store, Cheung said that they want Alphapet City to be an all-around pet service, offering boarding, daycare, grooming and pet transportation. He added that they plan to offer hydrotherapy for senior dogs in a small swimming pool, but haven’t worked out the details for that yet.
Although the spot is bigger than their downtown location, it doesn’t look like much upon first walking in, Cheung admitted. The front part of the store is crowded in with a desk and shelves stocked high with pet food and supplies, but behind that is a large open area complete with dog beds and toys. The space available for grooming is beyond that at the back.
The lower level is just as spacious as the upstairs area and will be used for boarding, but Cheung said they’re still working on finishing up those renovations. He noted that they’re going to try to use that space to separate big dogs from small dogs. So far, though, since they’ve only had five dogs at most at one time, they’ve been keeping them all together and haven’t had any problems.
The store’s name was a joint effort and it’s an inside joke among the three owners who gets to take credit for coming up with it. They were throwing ideas around and came up with Alphapet City but at some point during the brainstorming, lost track of who thought of it first.
“So then we were all trying to take credit for it,” Cheung said.
One of the store’s mainstays that was also featured prominently in their Chinatown location is Cheung’s white Siberian husky, Maya. The store is accessible by bell because Maya used to get skittish when they first opened, darting outside the store when people came in and out, but Cheung said that she seems to have settled down and is getting used to the space.
“A lot of people come in just to say hello to her,” Cheung said. “I think some people know her name better than they know mine.”