A new all-natural dog food store called Natural Hounds is making its mark in the Port Jefferson Village scene.
St. James resident Conor Wooley, 23, is not only the owner of Natural Hounds, but also doubles as the chef, creating new concoctions for nutritious dog food that includes meats, vegetables and grains.
He co-owns the store with his longtime friend, Rick Orlandi, who is also a St. James resident, and started their business venture back in 2018, operating out of the house of Wooley’s mother.
Trying to make as many appearances as possible at farmers markets and fundraisers, Wooley and Orlandi were determined to establish credibility for their business and build a clientele.
“The first year everyone was just kind of looking at us thinking, ‘Am I really going to buy dog food from 18-year-olds?’ So that was kind of a challenge, but then they kept seeing us come back year after year,” Wooley said.
The concept Wooley and Orlandi like to explain to their customers is their belief that there is no “dog food” and “people food” but more so only good food versus bad food. Their ingredients are outsourced from restaurant suppliers on Long Island and designed to be biologically appropriate for a dog to eat.
There are four wet food recipes for sale right now, namely turkey, beef, pork and lamb. The newest addition of crunchy biscuits and chicken jerky treats have been added to their menu, but Orlandi said there are more options available in store. Customers can opt for delivery for convenience as well.
“Comparing our brand to dry food brands is like comparing McDonald’s to a steakhouse. I never understood why other brands make their food so expensive. I always try to give value to the customer and will not have someone pay a ridiculous amount of money for dog food,” Orlandi said.
Mentioning how some customers have expressed their gratitude for Natural Hounds making their pups healthy again, Wooley recalled a customer who was preparing to put her dog down due to poor health until she was introduced to the company.
“We had a lady come in the other day and told us she was going to put her dog down, who was an old Yorkshire terrier,” Wooley said. “She gave him our original recipe and two weeks later he was much healthier and more mobile. So it’s nice to hear things like that and makes getting up at 6 a.m. to cook 500 pounds of dog food worth it.”
Wooley stressed that despite the saying “You are what you eat” is corny, it is also extremely true. When feeding animals an unhealthy diet, can change their personalities and their energy levels.
“It’s the truth if over the course of 10 years you’re feeding your dog something bad and their body isn’t functioning optimally, then they’re going to be in a much different spot than if you were to feed them natural meals.”
The business is looking to expand to other locations and thinking about adding a cat food section.