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How a Petco Emporium Gives Pet Owners Treats Too

The Union Square location in Manhattan runs to multiple stories and leans on experiential retail

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When Petco left its dreary, longtime store on the north side of Union Square for a new space across the street at the renovated Tammany Hall, the company decided to create a whimsical, New York City-themed location that would delight pets and their owners alike. 

“We tried to make it an extension of Union Square Park,” said Cindi Kato, a principal at Arcadis who worked on the design. “To reflect where Petco is going as a brand, their health and wellness, and their differentiated services, to be a place where the pet and pet parent could interact.” 

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“It’s an immersive experience that’s unlike any other pet retailer or any other retailer in New York,” said Rick Neira, who oversees store design and merchandise display for Petco. 

Neira also highlighted an effort to make the store feel like part of the park, including fake wooden trees hung with fluttering green leaves, and transom-style glass lighting along the ceiling that mimics outdoor sunlight as the day progresses. 

“In a park there isn’t a grid, it’s organically laid out,” Neira said. “We were combining that with not only a grooming salon, but, like, a vintage barber shop, the Barker Shop.”

As customers enter the first floor, they encounter the trees, and, beneath them, an array of pet and human clothes, toys and home goods from one of Petco’s higher-end product lines. To the left are glassed-in grooming spaces, one of which is emblazoned with gold-leaf signage proclaiming “Ruff’s Barker Shop New York.” There’s also black-and-white mosaic tile, wood paneling, and an old-school barber chair. The other grooming area says “Wash. Dry. Wag!” on a dark brick wall. A third glassed-in space labeled “Vetco” offers veterinary care. 

In the back is the shop for Petco’s Reddy brand, a hip line of clothes and accessories for pets that previously had a pop-up shop on Prince Street in SoHo. Think faded pink hoodies that say “Best Friend Ever!,” denim jackets, and even iron-on patches. There’s also a counter where owners can customize their jacket and their pet’s jacket to match. Staff can also customize harnesses for pets. Next door is a “dog park” area for training lessons or events that naturally includes a large map on the wall showing local dog parks.

A backlit set of black metal steps leads to the second floor, and beneath it is a custom-built set of wooden cat apartments with plexiglass windows that allow people to see cats available for adoption. 

Upstairs customers can find a large variety of pet food — including the human-grade “JustFoodForDogs” meals made in a basement kitchen — along with displays of higher-end home goods, pet beds, carriers and food bowls. Beneath another set of green fluttering leaves at the top of the stairs is an area with tanks and cages for birds, fish and reptiles, with plenty of custom options. Also on offer are bright, color-coordinated shelves stocked with toys and stuffed animals, from flying discs and tennis balls to stuffed lambs and unicorns. 

“When you come off the elevator, it’s like walking into Dylan’s Candy Bar and FAO Schwarz,” said Neira. “Toys merchandised in a way you are not used to seeing.” 

Construction on the 25,000-square-foot store started in November 2022 and finished in May, with a grand opening held in June.

Rebecca Baird-Remba can be reached at rbairdremba@commercialobserver.com