When Frank Papa opened a pet supply shop in Carrboro in 2002, he wasn’t expecting it to last long.
“It was time for a career change,” said Papa, who was a software engineer at the time. “I thought it would be a cute store, and I’d be a shopkeeper for a little while. I didn’t expect it to be what it is today.”
This fall, Papa opened Phydeaux in Cary, his third Triangle store. At 13,000 square feet, the store helps anchor Wellington Park shopping center on Tryon Road.
“We had a quiet opening to work the bugs out,” he said.
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The store’s unique moniker might not make sense until said aloud, he said.
“I can’t take credit for it,” Papa said. “I have a friend who knows a lot of languages who came up with it. I didn’t like it at first, but a week later I decided to keep it.”
Papa, 41, said he uses a business model not typically seen in other pet stores. Every employee is full-time with benefits. Employees also are instrumental in selecting stock for the store.
“It’s an old-fashioned retail style,” he said. “My people all operate with a degree of independence that people don’t see at other stores. Once people come in, they see what we’re all about.”
Papa said his employees are knowledgeable about trends in supplies and food.
“We are always doing research, talking to vets, manufacturers and nutritionists,” he said. “If we don’t know, we’re going to find out for our customers. We try to have a really big selection of all the best stuff in the pet supply industry.
“A lot of people think we’re a fancy, expensive store. But when they compare, they are shocked that we’re competitive with the big-box stores.”
For five years running, Phydeaux has been recognized by Inc. 5000 as one of the fastest growing independently owned businesses in the country. Papa, who shuttles between his three stores, said he runs the business on his own. The original Carrboro store has since relocated to Chapel Hill; a Raleigh store rounds out the trio.
Phydeaux does not sell animals, but works closely with rescue groups. The stores host pet adoptions as well as stage collections for area rescues.
He said there isn’t a formula when deciding on a new location.
“I just personally have to get a feel for a neighborhood,” he said. “It seemed like the right spot for us. It’s a gut thing I go with.”
He said he didn’t expect Phydeaux to last as long as it has.
“At this point, it’s growing very fast,” he said. “I have more stores in the pipeline. People think we’re a small store, but we deal with tons and tons of inventory every week. It’s kind of amazing. Each store sells more than an average big-box store.
“It’s the best pet supply store in the Triangle,” he said. “It’s basically a one-man operation. It’s been fun.”