Meet Your Merchant: Pet goods store owner combines passion with her business
Jan McMinn’s passion is dogs – it’s also part of her livelihood.
McMinn, 63, is a retired registered nurse who also has spent most of her life raising show dogs.
She’ll travel to Long Beach, Calif., next month to compete in the American Kennel Club-Eukanuba National Championship dog show with her 6-year-old Borzoi, Annie. For those who don’t know, the Eukanuba is like the World Series of dog shows. About 2,500 dogs are expected to participate. The event will air on ABC on Jan. 23.
McMinn opened Sierra Le Bone, a Carson City pet goods boutique, four years ago in the Eagle Station shopping center. Retirement proved too boring, she said, which is why she decided to go into business with her partner, Linda Cattoni-Shafer, who lives in Utah.
“Both of our passions are dogs,” McMinn said. “When I got bored sitting at home … I decided I wanted to do something since I love dogs, so I decided to open this store.”
Running a business has been a new experience for McMinn, who worked at the VA Hospital in Reno.
“The biggest lesson is patience and keeping your attitude positive because it’s been hard with the economy the last couple years,” McMinn said.
She said customers started purchasing cheaper dog foods once the economy started to go south.
“You do what you have to do, you pay your rent and buy your food,” McMinn said. “And if that means feeding your pet a little less quality, a lot of people chose to do that. But it’s coming around again and we have a lot of people who only want to feed the very best.”
McMinn said many of her dog foods are human grade; she even offers one that’s kosher.
Besides a wide variety of dog and cat foods and treats, McMinn also sells cleaning products for pets, food bowls, harnesses and custom collars.
She also offers toys that don’t have any stuffing and treats that are digestible, unlike rawhide, which she advises against giving to pets.
She hopes to eventually open a grooming and day care service and introduce more local products, such as Diggin’ Charki Puffs, which are made in Reno.
Sierra Le Bone also offers free obedience training at her shop on Saturdays, weather permitting. There’s also American Kennel Club conformation classes, too.
As for the dog competition, McMinn said her Annie had to be in the top 25 of her breed, which are also known as Russian wolfhounds, or have won a national specialty.
“There’s a bunch of different qualifications, but I have the No. 1 Borzoi bitch all-breed,” McMinn said.
Three years ago, Annie broke her shoulder, but McMinn hired a handler and Annie is performing well again.
“So she had to have plates and screws,” McMinn said. “We didn’t know if she’d be lame, but she’s not so we’re thrilled.”
McMinn’s lifelong relationship with dogs was sparked by her uncle, who bred boxers. After she graduated from college she bought a miniature schnauzer and fell into the world of competitive dog shows.
She took a break for awhile, but found her way back into the lifestyle in 1993 when she got her first Borzoi.
“I’ve always had the bug,” she said, adding three of her Borzois have turned out to be champions.
“I’ve been blessed with getting good dogs,” she said. “A dog show, it’s a beauty pageant. Everybody has their own ideal, they have their standard. There’s variations in each standard. Every judge is different.”
She crinkles her nose at the satirical films made about dog shows, like “Best in Show.”
“There are some weird people out there, but that was just over and above everything. It was just totally exaggerated,” McMinn said.
She calls her Annie a “35 mph coach potato, adding she has an acre of land in south Reno to run around.
“First of all they’re pets, and then show dogs,” McMinn said. “People think sometimes it’s cruel to make them (show), but all they do is trot around the ring. They stand there and let somebody touch them to make sure the hair isn’t hiding any glaring faults.”
As for Annie, “She just floats,” McMinn said. “First of all they’re pets, and then show dogs,” McMinn said. “People think sometimes it’s cruel to make them (show), but all they do is trot around the ring. They stand there and let somebody touch them to make sure the hair isn’t hiding any glaring faults.”
As for Annie, “She just floats,” McMinn said.