In 1993 Stephanie Sorensen was working for a pharmaceutical company with all those terrific benefits: a car, insurance, great pay and vacation time! Realizing that that was not making her happy she decided to make a change, her new boss helped her with this choice. Kirk Sorensen, who was working for a well known Eau Claire home improvement chain in their general offices at the time, asked her what she wanted to do, she replied "groom dogs." Now after he picked himself up off the ground he did what every good husband would do, he gave an enthusiastic O.K. Envisioning dogs coming to their home all days of the week and leaving hair everywhere, and imagining all those great benefits going out the window, it did not sound like a good change.
Stephanie however was doing something that she loved and it showed. It had started when she was 9 taking 4-H dog classes and continued with her showing one dog or another in AKC Confirmation and Obedience shows. She even won a national specialty with her boarder terrier in 2012 and has shown at Westminster and the Eukanuba Dog Classic. Working first at an area vet clinic, then leasing her own space in another vet clinic, to a strip mall , each time growing causing Kirk to do more remodeling, she continued to grow her business Paws and Claws. In 1997 they purchased the old Eau Claire County Humane Association and after a lot more remodeling they opened the first Paws and Claws, which has complete grooming and boarding. (You see for the past couple of years Stephanie had let her customers talk her into watching their dogs at her house (Kirk's too!) and they sorely needed a space for the visitors other than the living room couch.)
Never being content with things the way they were, in 2000 Stephanie and Kirk along with their three children decided to sell their house, move into the 20x24 apartment at Paws and Claws, (formerly the old humane association garage) and live happily but somewhat cramped. Now this was going to be just for a little while (2 months shy of 4 years did we mention the bathroom was a renovated crematorium?) so they could afford the down payment on the new house Kirk was going to build.
Again never being content with the way things were, Kirk decided (with the help of his boss) to change jobs and be his own boss too. Now about this time Stephanie's friend Linda said "hey, I'm quitting at Pet Food Plus and they need a manager, I think they would even sell, why doesn't he see about that?" The owners who lived north of Eau Claire quite a ways realized that the growing store, which was started in 1989 could benefit from a full time owner/manager. So after some negotiation, a year of management and some good luck, they spent that money that was supposed to be a down payment on a new house and bought Pet Food Plus in the fall of 2001.
The idea for Pet Food Plus began at a Purina feeds dealers meeting in Canada. At the meeting they talked about dog food becoming the next big thing in feed and people willing to pay $15.00 for a 50# bag! At the time horse feed and saddles were found on the sales floor as much as dog food during the first few years of business. As we have grown the horse saddles have been replaced by more dog foods and supplies for all companion animals. Today our selection extends to just about every type of companion animal you could think of as well as mini pig, llama and goat, chicken, and small animal feeds. Purina Feeds continue to be offered and we are Eau Claire's exclusive dealer.
The changes since we started in animal nutrition as well as the variety are staggering. We continue to enjoy every day working for our customers and ourselves, and finding ways to improve our relationship. Today after several years of hard work and change, the old humane association building was replaced by a new state of the art boarding facility complete with an indoor pool and heated floors and Pet Food Plus, which has increased in size twice, and is set to grow again. Our latest adventure is a new store site in the Hamilton Square Mall!
Four kids, five dogs, three cats, numerous chickens, birds and small animals, two businesses and dozens of employees (most of which we think of as just more kids) and of course all you terrific customers that we love, keep us busy doing what we enjoy. But whatever changes we see in the upcoming years, and we've seen a lot, we continue to be committed to our customers and making their relationship with their pets the best that it can be.