Hamlet pet food store owner hopes for a miracle

Hamlet pet food store owner hopes for a miracle

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Audrey Hebert-DiNiro, above left, and her daughter Nicole stand in front of a board filled with photos of customers’ pets. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The owner of a Three Village staple is on the verge of closing the doors of her business permanently.

Audrey Hebert-DiNiro said she plans to close Hamlet Pet Food & Supply Co. in the new year, even though she hasn’t determined a date yet.

The Hamlet Pet Food shelves are emptying out as Hebert-DiNiro finds it difficult to order products. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The pet food store opened at 732 North Country Road in Setauket 30 years ago. Hebert-DiNiro said after three decades, she was hoping she wouldn’t have to worry about keeping her store afloat. However, through the years, websites such as Chewy and Amazon have taken business away from her.

“This was a lucrative business at one time, paying salaries and health insurance and so on,” she said. “Now, I can barely pay for myself. It’s heartbreaking, but I don’t know what else to do.”

Recently, the business owner said she started telling customers about her plan. She said she is hanging on to hope as customers have recommended fundraising sites such as GoFundMe.

“I could use a small miracle,” Hebert-DiNiro said.

The pet store owner said she has been negatively impacted by supply shortages, too. And, early on in the pandemic, while she was able to stay open due to being considered essential by the state, many people for months opted to stay home and order from online businesses.

In the past, she said she hasn’t done much advertising outside of The Village Times Herald, and she attracted new customers basically by word of mouth.

The business owner moved to the Three Village area in 1969 with her late husband, Joseph DiNiro, and their children Bobby and Nicole attended school in the district. Her son is currently the owner of Hamlet Wines & Liquors, while her daughter works with her mother in the pet store.

Joseph DiNiro opened the wine store in 1979. Hebert-DiNiro said at the time there were more mom-and-pops in the community. However, when the couple decided to open the pet supply store in the ‘90s, people told them they wouldn’t make it back then.

“What we started it with was basically a wing and a prayer,” she said.

If Hebert-DiNiro can sell the business, she will, but right now she thinks she may have to just close the shop that she leases. She recently sold her home and is now renting a house in Miller Place.

She added stock is low as she hasn’t been able to order anything due to finances, as pet food and supplies are cash on delivery. Due to many of her products being made in America or by small businesses, she said it’s been difficult for her customers to find those supplies elsewhere.

The store is a place where Hebert-DiNiro said she feels as if she’s in her element working with animals and their owners, and it will be sad for her to close the store, but she feels as if there is nothing else she can do.

“It’s not that I don’t want to work,” she said. “I love what I do.”