Pet ownership has evolved into pet parenting, and we want to spoil our furbabies with foods that are healthier and pricier than we ever eat, not to mention fun toys, Halloween costumes, comfy bedding and other swag.
Finding local shops with all of the above and more is easier than ever. Here are some stops to add to your pet-pampering rounds:
Royal Pets Market & Resort
Locations in Palm Harbor, Carrollwood and St. Petersburg Royalpetsmarket.com
The locally owned megastore is poised to give PetSmart a run for its money with a state-of-the-art veterinary center, grooming parlor and boarding haven for four-legged darlings. Royal offers a pleasurable and browsing-friendly experience with employees trained to give nutritional advice. CEO Denise Wolin decorated the "markets" to be both retail and pet-care palaces with regal-themed decor. In the Palm Harbor location, an amusing Michelangelo-like fresco looms above with gold wallpaper featuring framed portraits of pets surrounding the showroom — including Wolin's own SharPei, Hensley. The personal touches distinguish Royal Pets from other chains and box stores. Plus, Royal's "5-Star Hotels" offer a range of accommodations and indoor-outdoor recreation. They look so plush, colorful and fun, you'll be tempted to stay there.
Munchies Natural Pet Foods
Locations in Oldsmar, Belleair Bluffs and Wesley Chapel munchiesnaturalpetfoods.com
Palm Harbor resident Carla Wiza became inspired to open her own natural foods store when her family dog fell ill and recovered with the help of an improved, naturally based diet. She purchased Munchies in Oldsmar in 2005. Daughter Ann Hurley and husband Chad helped grow the business with locations in Belleair Bluffs and Wesley Chapel in 2015. The pet supply store carries premium dog and cat foods, treats, toys, supplements and stylish pet gifts. Employees are knowledgeable and helpful, and a wide range of affordable accessories are on display. The Belleair location is conveniently located next to Wildfields Marketplace, a purveyor of human healthiness.
Largo Feed Store
210 W Bay Drive, Largo (727) 581-8743, largofeed.com
If boutique retail is too steep for your budget, Largo Feed is a more economical and no-frills option for quality foods, accessories and toys. The store with a long history in Pinellas tends to a wide range of pets and livestock. They have chicken feed and supplies, including the full lines of Purina, Mazuri and New Country Organics. Highly rated for customer service, Largo Feed offers advice and assists customers to their car. The original store was built around 1910 and abutted the railroad tracks at Bay Drive and Missouri Avenue, so ranchers and dairy farmers could bring their cattle. In 1984, beloved owner Jim "Bert" Worsham sold the business to the current owners, who still operate under the same name in a shop on West Bay Drive. The Largo Historical Society bought the old building and moved it to Largo Central Park, where it sits today. Vaccination services offered, too.
166 Boardwalk Place W, Madeira Beach (727) 329-3789, pawpaws.biz
A novelty shop for pet owner swag as well as accessories for dogs and cats, Paw Paws is impulse-buy heaven. From funny T-shirts with smart-alecky slogans like "My Indian Name Is Walks With Poop" to biker outfits for small dogs, Paw Paws is a must for super-fun pet-lover shopping. The boutique also features a bakery and carriages. Paw Paws is well worth navigating past the sweaty throngs of tourists in Madeira Beach's John's Pass Village, located on the western end of the boardwalk.
To market: Don't forget to check your local outdoor markets and Tampa Indie Flea for vendors selling handmade specialty food, toys, decor and other items for your pets. One standout: Tampa-based PoocheyCouture, which designs smart pet tags and charms (Etsy.com/poocheycouture).
Other pet-friendly shops to check out: Barks By the Bay in South Tampa, Downtown Dogs in Hyde Park Village, Fluffy Puppies in Clearwater and St. Petersburg's One Lucky Dog or Pawsitvely Posh.