EarthWise Franchise Review: Mark Pagan of Oregon

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EarthWise Franchise Review: Mark Pagan of Oregon

How the love of Bernese Mountain Dogs sparked a booming franchise business with locations in Medford and Ashland Oregon

Mark and Vickie Pagan, with their Bernese Mountain Dogs Sesi, Kobuk & Kenai, stand next to a lake with a snow-capped mountain in the background.
Mark and Vickie Pagan with their Bernese Mountain Dogs Sesi, Kobuk, & Kenai. The Pagans run Nature’s Pet franchises in Ashland and Medford, Oregon.

Mark Pagan and his family have been involved in the Bernese Mountain Dog breed for over 25 years. They love the large-breed dog, but it’s a breed not known for its longevity. The Pagans wanted to change that, and they were attracted to the all-natural food selection found in Nature’s Pet — EarthWise Pet’s sister brand. They were also attracted to our mission, which is to help pets live longer, healthier lives. They signed on the dotted line in 2011 and today, he and his wife, Vickie, own stores in Medford and Ashland, Oregon. “I’m very grateful for the franchise. We absolutely love this industry,” Mark Pagan says. “We love what we’ve been able to bring to the community.” He talks about their experience in this Nature’s Pet (EarthWise) Franchise Review.

What were you doing before you became a Nature’s Pet franchise owner?
I worked for a company called Lithia, running auto dealerships.

Why did you choose EarthWise?
Well actually, when we started it was called Nature’s Pet, and that’s the brand name we still operate under today. My wife is really the one that did the research. She thought she wanted to open a natural pet food bakery. She put some time in looking at what it would take to do that. When you start drilling down, that meant baking. Pretty labor intense. She started looking for other alternatives and came up with this Nature’s Pet franchise. She presented it to me, and she and my son opened our Ashland location. I was still running dealerships for Lithia when we opened. Then, after two years I left the automobile industry, and we opened up a second store here in Medford in 2014.

What piqued your wife’s interest in natural health for pets? Why was that interesting to the two of you?
We’ve been involved with the Bernese Mountain Dog breed for about 25 years. It’s a large breed, and their life expectancy was not very long. We started getting involved personally with better foods and better nutrition. Originally when she was thinking of opening the bakery, her thought was that she could take her dogs to work.

Once we got involved with the franchise and some of the initial training, we liked what we heard and just moved forward with it. We do bring our dogs to work. They’re quite a hit at the stores, and they’re very social and active out on the floor. It’s a plus for us.

Two Bernese Mountain Dogs sit on a thin layer of autumn leaves between two trees against a woodsy background. One dog has his paw on the other dog’s face.

You have a great love for pets, you’re in a different industry now. What do you like about owning the business?
Well, I’m very comfortable running a business. I’ve done that pretty much most of my adult life. The nice part of this is obviously I not only run it, I own it. We’re able to establish cultures and values that are consistent with our beliefs in customer service and pet nutrition. We also have a grooming salon here in the Medford store, and a couple of self-wash stations. Being the owners, for my wife and myself, is fun. We like what we do. We enjoy coming to work.

Are you still working a lot of hours even eight years later?
No, not really. I typically cover lunches a couple of days a week. Usually I’m not on the schedule. I handle all of the administrative business for our corporation that owns the businesses. I handle HR and as much IT as I can handle. If somebody gets sick, I’ll pitch in.

If I’m at the store, like today, I love being out on the floor talking to people. Now, I started this store pretty much by myself, so I’m the face of the Medford store.

Because of the nature of the business, people buy food, their dog eats it, they come back and buy more food. It’s a cycle that happens pretty regularly, and you get to know these people. I thoroughly enjoy it.

I also like the fact that I’m not tied to a schedule at this time in my life. I play golf two or three times a week. It’s good for us. We’ll probably be looking to sell one of these sometime in the next three or four years.

So, you’re going to want to retire at some point.
You know, I feel like I am now. I turned 69 recently. But it’s not stressful at all to me, running a business. At one time I had five automobile dealerships I was running, and that was stressful. Two little stores like this with 15 people is really nothing.

If you had to go back knowing what you know now, if you were starting out, would you still become a Nature’s Pet or an EarthWise franchisee?
Oh yeah, we’re happy with the franchise.

What is it about this particular business that makes you think that it’s going to be around in another 10, 20 years?
The pet industry itself is as close to being recession-bulletproof as anything. It went right through that 2007-2008 and increased its annual sales. We liked that. We like the fact that people keep coming back. When they’re having a successful encounter with us and their pets are doing well, they tell their friends and family. The thing just grows.

It’s a neighborhood pet store. I don’t need to be the PetSmart or Petco and try to bring people from hundreds of miles away to do business with me. I just want to be the local guy that helps people with their pet challenges, concerns and nutrition.

When you’re done, however long that is, when you sell the other store and maybe you’re down to one and then you go down to zero, what do you want people to remember about what you did with your stores?
I think the fact that we provided them with a fun place to do business and we provided a variety of great products to choose from. We provided expert knowledge about dogs and cats. We helped them sustain healthy pets, and with great customer service. That would be our legacy, I believe.

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