By Casey Murphy. Tyler Morning Telegraph, Texas
Pam Boyd Bombyk has always loved dogs and dog people.
Her passion for the fur balls led her to start Life With Pets in November.
"I think this is a keeper," she said of the business, housed in a small building on Old Bullard Road near Time Square Center.
"I like to show people things that I find that work for me. I'm a promoter."
Mrs. Bombyk, 60, said she does not like shopping in big box stores or online, and wanted to offer a small, relaxing pet boutique.
The cornerstone of her business is the Molly Mutt pet beds, which she said can't be found anywhere else locally.
She sells the beds, as well as leashes and collars, Nature's Select dog food, made in Mount Pleasant, and Pet Kiss, which helps with bad breath and can save on dental bills, she said.
She also offers organic shampoos and sprays, all natural treats that help with joint problems and other issues.
All of her pet foods are made in America.
At Life With Pets, she sells pet toys that she couldn't find anywhere but online, such as the hide-a-squirrel, where the owner and dog play with the toy together.
She said working a dog's brain tires them out faster than working them physically.
"My overall goal is to offer things that are functional, beautiful and interactive," she said. "It's practical. Everything has to have a purpose."
She said she offers merchandise with a variety of price ranges.
Most of Mrs. Bombyk's background is in selling advertisements and services, as well as the natural health field, she said.
She was born in Indiana but spent most of her adult life in Detroit before she and her husband moved to Tyler 10 years ago.
After visiting her sister in Jacksonville, they set their eyes on Tyler because of the weather and the people.
They planned to stay for the winter but after a month decided to move here, she said.
Before the move, she sold a staffing company, Workforce Inc., she owned for 16 years.
Mrs. Bombyk lives between Chandler and Brownsboro. Her husband of 19 years, Mark, is the chief operating officer of First Choice Cooperative.
She had never done retail before but opened Life With Pets on Nov. 1.
For now, she is open part-time and is trying to figure out what times customers want her open, she said, adding that she will extend her hours after winter ends.
Mrs. Bombyk attended the now-defunct Clayton College of Natural Health in Birmingham and earned a natural health degree with a concentration in homeopathy.
She published a magazine in East Texas called Natural Awakenings for seven years, then churned out Natural Awakenings Pet for more than a year, leading her to learn about the issues in East Texas, she said.
She was the Animal Wellness Magazine Midwest Region sales manager and serves as the Texas Regional ambassador for fundraising for shelters and rescues.
She helped put on the first Petapalooza in Ben Wheeler and worked with Deborah Dobbs before she started the SPCA of East Texas, she said.
After stopping the publication because there wasn't enough of a market for it in the area, she said she thought about what she wanted to do with her life.
Mrs. Bombyk knew she wanted to do something to be around dogs and around dog people.
Because she is an entrepreneur and a capitalist, she said she decided to open a retail store catering to animals.
She found the small building on Old Bullard Road, near the SPCA of East Texas' facility, and opened Life With Pets.
She said through her business, she helps support the SPCA, acting as a drop-off point for dog food donations, offers people who recently adopted an animal a place to shop for supplies and posts pictures of adoptable animals on her Facebook page.
She also sells the SPCA's calendars, as well as art painted by adoptable dogs at the Henderson County Humane Society, and dog scarves made by two women trying to earn money to get Dog Scouts badges for their pets.
She said she constantly gets in new products and asks customers what they would like to see sold in her store.
"I try to have things that can't be found at other pet stores and my knowledge to go along with it," she said of why she believes her business is unique.
Her business isn't just about retail, she said.
If people have pets with behavioral or food issues, she wants them to know she has lots of answers.
And if she doesn't know it she has a resource library and can help them find out, she added.
"If it has to do with pets, I want people to say, 'Go see Pam.' ... I'm a teacher as well as a promoter," she said, adding that she hates to see people struggle or spend too much money on something.
Once a month, a professional pet photographer sets up in her shop for portraits, which can be turned into a calendar at the end of the year.
The next photo session is planned for Feb. 15.
She said she also is going to have a woman come in to do pet drawings of those animals that aren't photogenic.
On her off time, Mrs. Bombyk said she likes to read, listen to "Red Dirt" music and do anything outdoors, including gardening, landscaping and, of course, playing with her dogs.
Mrs. Bombyk has four dogs -- two more than she should, she said.
About six years ago, someone dropped off three dogs at the end of her road and she still has two of them -- Momma Girl, a cattle dog, and her daughter Zoey, a mix, who were wild when they found them.
She also has Midget, a terrier mix she rescued in downtown Detroit, and Molly, her late mother's Doberman mix.
Customers will be greeted by Zoey or Midget as they walk into the store.