Julie and Steve Johannes quietly opened the first pet store in Bigfork two weeks ago. “There’s not a lot of places doing what we’re doing,” Julie said.
What they’re doing at Powder Hounds in the Branding Iron Station plaza is focusing on healthy pet food—including raw food for dogs and cats, low-carb options specifically for dogs and even homemade pet ice cream made personally by Julie.
Julie said everything in the store follows the couple’s “principles of healthy foods for animals.”
“It’s about getting these dogs (and cats) on the right food so they’re happy and thriving,” Julie added.
The couple moved to the area from Colorado in 2018, on the heels of running a pet store near Vail for a few years. Their interest in healthy pet food arose when their dog developed multiple untimely ailments and ultimately died of cancer. After that, Julie and Steve started examining the food they had been feeding their dog and started researching pet nutrition.
They said their current dog, Bisou, loves just about everything in their store, so they hope pets in the Bigfork area will share her enthusiasm.
Powder Hounds has a large selection of bulk foods, a freezer brimming with raw food and a variety of treats, chew toys and other pet accessories like life vests. The store carries brands such as Primal, Vital Essentials, Steve’s Real Food, OC Raw Dog, Nature’s Logic and Nutrisource.
The pet food at the store is mostly made in the U.S. out of high-quality ingredients such as apples, berries and broccoli, rather than hard-to-digest starches like corn and wheat. The dog food caters to dogs’ unique biology, featuring high-protein, low-carb concoctions, while the cat food emphasizes raw food to make up for the fact that cats traditionally don’t drink much water. The store owners insisted their treats are also “long-lasting” and “fun to eat.”
Their toys “run the gamut” to account for pets’ diverse interests. The wall of dog toys — and the slightly smaller section for cats — includes frisbees, heavy-duty chew toys, Kong toys, tennis balls, plush toys, adventure backpacks and other fun products.
“I want to appeal to all the many different types of dogs,” Julie explained.
She also added, “All in all, we’re open to what the community wants, to a degree.”
She and Steve understand raw pet food and treats like pig snouts, cow windpipes and bagged rabbit ears can seem a little disconcerting or overwhelming to pet owners who are used to buying traditional dry kibble. But she said the couple is receptive to local pet owners’ suggestions and they have a few tricks to help people — and their pets — switch from traditional diets to Powder Hounds’ fare.
“It’s a different philosophy than what a normal shopper would experience at a pet store,” Steve acknowledged.
But Steve and Julie have no qualms about being different. Moving forward, they hope to expand the offerings at the store to include other unorthodox options, like guiding animal lovers on pet-inclusive outdoor activities, hosting events to bring pets and people together, pet food delivery and possibly a rental program for equipment like pet life jackets.
The overall idea, Julie said, stems from her concept of the “Five Fs” — food, friends, fun, forest and family.
“It’s my idea to a well-lived life,” she said. “For animals too, as well as for us.”
Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 758-4459.