ORANGE PARK – Brian and Eric Rolf are proving that the age-old adage about not mixing business and family doesn’t apply to them.
Brian Rolf, 42, and his father Eric, 69, opened their second Metro Jacksonville-area Pet Supplies Plus store on May 26 at 510 Blanding Blvd. in the Orange Park area.
When asked about going into business with his father, Brian laughed at the “never mix business and family” idea.
“We’ve always been close,” said Brian. “It’s always been a dream of ours to work together at some point.”
Father and son took their own routes before realizing that dream, however.
Eric was a Miller and Coors distributor for 40 years in Ohio before selling his business almost 10 years ago. Brian said that his father felt it was both the right time to sell and still early enough for him to pursue another venture.
Brian went the military route, serving over 16 years in the Marine Corps as an FA-18 pilot before retiring in 2014. He elected to take early retirement as a major, rather than be sent to the Pentagon to work behind a desk as he believes would have happened if he’d stayed in and been promoted to lieutenant colonel.
Brian spent several years as a contract pilot with the Department of Defense where he flew intelligence reconnaissance missions for Special Operations Command in Africa and Southern Italy.
After relocating from San Diego to Jacksonville with his wife and three children, Brian’s goal of working with his father became real. Brian had earned a master of business administration while on active duty and said that he wanted to put that degree to use rather than become a commercial pilot.
“The lifestyle of a commercial pilot didn’t really work for me,” said Brian.
After a few years of searching, Brian and Eric decided to open a Pet Supplies Plus store together. They’re 50-50 partners in the business. Brian lives in Jacksonville and fills the owner and operator role while Eric still lives in Ohio and oversees a lot of the behind-the-scenes aspects of the business.
“We’re big pet lovers and animal lovers and we loved the business model that they had,” said Brian.
The first location the Rolf’s opened was in Atlantic Beach in the summer of 2016. After two years of success with that location, they expanded and opened the store in Orange Park.
One of the first things you notice upon walking into the store is how organized everything is. Not a single bag of food or toy is out of place.
“I inspect everything like a Marine Corps Officer,” said Brian. “I want to make sure everything is as clean and organized as possible and I think our customers really appreciate that.”
Another standout feature of the store is their self-service pet cleaning station. For $10 per half-hour customers can bring their pets in and give them a bath right in the store. Everything they need is provided from soaps to towels and the store cleans up afterwards.
There is also a groomer on site who provides a variety of services. Orange Park groomer Brian Robinson has already gathered himself a repeat customer base, according to Brian Rolf.
The Rolf’s have partnered with multiple local rescue organizations including Safe Animal Shelter, Clay Humane and The London Sanctuary. All three organizations participated in the grand opening and customers were able to vote for their favorite organization. The winning organization received a $1,000 gift card from the store while the other two received $250 gift cards.
They also plan to hold adoption events at the store on weekends, according to Brian.
The store isn’t just for the pet owners as animals are welcome too.
“As long as they’re on a leash, we’ve had everything in here from dogs, cats, puppies, kittens, snakes, a couple weeks ago at the Atlantic Beach location we had a goat come in on a leash,” said Brian. “We’ll get rabbits and other small animals in harnesses, big birds on people’s shoulders, you name it and it’s come in.”
When asked about any future expansion plans, Brian said that they’d like to expand eventually but it depends on the real estate and the areas that they feel need the concept.
“This isn’t a concept that you move into a St. Johns Town Center or somewhere like that,” said Brian. “This is one that you move into an area with an established neighborhood. Even on Blanding Boulevard we’re surrounded by neighborhoods.”
That thought plays into why the Rolf’s like the Pet Supplies Plus model in the first place. They saw it as being very neighborhood-oriented and people-friendly.