HEDGESVILLE — Bentley’s Specialty Pet Food has been a staple in Hedgesville for years, and under the ownership of Maresa and David Huber, the business has been able to expand, providing healthy options for pet owners in the area.
“We’ve had the business a year and 11 days, but the business itself has been around for at least 15, if not a little bit more,” Maresa said Monday. “We bought it from the previous owner.”
With years working in veterinary clinics and time spent working for the previous owner, Maresa has developed a strong knowledge when it comes to pet nutrition, the passion clear as she discusses her own pets’ diets and the facts behind the food.
“When working at the veterinary clinic and reading the backs of the food labels and being kind of disgusted about what’s in these foods and how they’re made, what they’re made with (made me interested in animal nutrition),” she said. “They’re often times made of the three D’s: dead, dying and diseased. Often times, euthanasia solution has been found in these products, road kill, stuff like that. The prescription foods are just as bad as the typical over-the-counter foods.”
This made Bentley’s the perfect place to fuel that passion.
Bentley’s offers higher-quality food choices in for cats, dogs, smaller pets and livestock as the inventory continues to expand and meet the needs of customers.
“All of the products in here are from distributors, but I try to get as much information about where they come from,” Maresa said. “Primal is in (California). I really like Fromm. They’re out of Wisconsin. We try to get as U.S.-sourced as much as possible.
“When we bought the store, it was extremely bare. It only had four or five brands of food. We brought in the livestock feed. We brought in the Victor. We brought in the Carna4. We just kind of expanded from there. They didn’t have a small-animal section, which is a few months old, so not a lot of people know about it. We did get a lot of requests, ‘Do you carry this? Do you carry that?’ I said, ‘We need to try to benefit the community as much as possible.’ Even if it’s just for a small bag of rabbit feed or guinea pig feed, we have that available. We have crickets available. We’re looking at getting peeps in the spring.”
Finding that balance of price-point and quality, the Hubers help customers find what’s right for them and their furry friends, able to give advice and knowledge on each brand.
“It’s an education process,” David said. “We’ve got certain brands that won’t sell to the big companies; they’ll only sell to the small companies.”
And a lot of times, that education, for the Hubers at least, comes from first-hand experience. Maresa recalled a time when her Chinese Cresteds were having skin issues, so she moved from an already high-quality food to a balanced raw diet. Six months later, the issues were completely gone.
It’s those moments when the Hubers see a pet overcome whatever issue they were dealing with that makes every challenge of being a small business owner worth it.
“Especially dogs with allergies or skin issues, (customers) come in here and say, ‘My dog is itching, and I don’t know why. He doesn’t have fleas, but he’s losing his hair, he’s licking his feet, he’s licking his stomach. My vet wants to put him on a prescription diet, but they’re so expensive,’” Maresa said. “What I’ll do is go, ‘This is what we carry. This is something.’
“It’s fabulous when they come in and say, ‘That food has made a huge difference. He’s no longer itching. He’s no longer digging. He can sleep at night.’ It doesn’t always happen, but the majority of the time, it does. It fuels the passion that I’m not steering people in the wrong direction.”
Those moments of connection and understanding just add to the Huber’s passion, a warm welcome when you walk through the door and a plethora of knowledge to assist every pet.
“What’s good, I think, about a small business and a small business owner that knows about food products is you’re not going to get that from Amazon,” Maresa said. “You can’t contact Amazon, ‘Hey, my dog has allergies. What do I do?’ They’re not going to know.”
With a year now under their belts, the Hubers are looking toward the future with their furry friends not far from their sides, dogs Riker and Tosh frequently found near the desk.
“Sometimes, people come in specifically to see the dogs,” Maresa laughed.
David added, “The dogs help break the ice, especially with new customers.”
Though COVID-19 has caused some changes, threw some challenges their way like it has for all small-business owners, the couple is proud of carrying on the Bentley’s store and thankful for every customer along the way.
“I think we did pretty good for this first year,” David said. “Granted the business was already established and we had some clientele already, so that helps, but we’ve seen an increase in sales. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback. We’ve had new customers, which is really nice to see.”
Maresa added, “People didn’t want to go to the big stores. They felt better going to a smaller store. COVID’s been difficult, but there’s nothing we can do about it. We still have to follow guidelines, and we do it to the best of our ability. It’s not going to stop us. We are extremely thankful to everyone who comes in here. If it wasn’t for them, this wouldn’t be here.”
Bentley’s is located at 101 E. Main St. in Hedgesville. For more information on products or for any questions, check out the Facebook page under the business name or call 681-258-2860.