So, you want to know about hospitality? Here goes.
I had an interview scheduled with Chris Lai, the owner of Brookdale Pet Center and my car died (again). I was faced with walking about a mile and a half in the rain to visit the store.
Nothing doing. I called Chris to reschedule.
“Steve,” he said, “if you want, I can offer you a ride.”
And I accepted that ride, folks -- to and from the store.
And that’s the type of friendliness you get when you visit this welcoming spot which the Lai family has owned for 18 years. When your pet needs food, you seek per care advice, or you’re in the market for a new animal like a bird, fish or reptile to bring into your home, Brookdale Pet Center is your place to visit.
Shannon Langenfeld has been the Brookdale Pet Center manager since 2004.
“It (hospitality) is important because it spreads the word about the store; people tell their friends and family members,” she said.
She then alludes to being a neighborhood store: “It’s good because we’re convenient. You get the help you need (for your pet).”
Susan Moore and her son Matt, Montclair residents, know this well. The Moore family has two lizards, and one time one suffered an illness after purchasing the pet from another location.
“Service and knowledge,” said Moore when asked why she visits Brookdale Pet Center over chain pet shops. “They know a little if not a lot about everything.”
And if they don’t, they’ll send you to the proper folks. In the Moore’s case, their lizard, Roux, was recommended to a top notch lizard vet, much to the family’s appreciation. He recovered and is healthy again.
“We hear stories that are not so happy,” said Lai with regard to customers' experiences at ither pet shops. “It makes us realize how important we are. We get lizards from the top breeders on the east coast. All of our fish are flown in, and they are all captive-bred fish.”
Brookdale Pet Center also has good quality items in stock, like dog and cat food, bedding, toys and more, and is always looking at newer items as well.
“We recommend high quality; it’s safer for pets,” said Lao, then emphasizing again, “Make sure you use high-quality products.”
“We sell top of the line pet foods. Make sure your pet eats the right things,” added Langenfeld.
“And our products are all natural,” said Lai.
A Brookdale Pet Center shopper since age 12 is Sam Oppenheimer. Her current pets are two rats: 1-year-old Castiel, and the nearly 1-year-old Dean.
“Rats,” she said, “are basically the personality of a dog in a small package with the charm of a cat.”
She then tells me why she visits Lao and crew once a month. “I like that it’s clean, the prices are good, they’re friendly, and the animals are healthy.”
Likewise Glen Ridge resident Dawn Cueman, who has a variety of pets.
“What don’t we have?” she said with a laugh.
Three cats, three dogs, a bearded dragon (lizard), boa constrictor and fish call the Cueman residence their comfy abode. Cueman said customer service is high on her list of reasons for returning.
“They go out of their way for you. If they don’t have an item in stock, they’ll get it," she said. "I’d much rather give my business to a small, family-owned business.”
“And, I come here for Brooke,” she added with a smile.
Brooke is the resident Brookdale Pet Center mascot and live-in cat. If not sleeping, she’s up and about, befriending you or getting reacquainted while you shop.
In addition to selling top notch products and caring for your pet, it’s what Lai, Langenfeld and crew do outside of store walls that’s important as well. Community involvement is huge to them. The store works with local animal organizations like the Montclair Animal Shelter, Homeless Animal League, Hug-a-Bunny rabbit rescue group, while also supporting in-town and school events, like tricky trays.
And then, Lai sums it all up. “We especially like working with township organizations because we grew up in Bloomfield.”
Brookdale Pet Center
1054 Broad St.
Hours: Monday-Friday: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday: 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday: 11 a.m.-5 p.m.