Beyond kibble

A new Southwest business plans to serve up meat and produce dishes for kitties and canines.

FULTON — Chicken, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and diced apples — at first blush, the spread on Enrique Palma’s table looked like it was going to be his lunch.

But he was actually preparing a meal, the way he always does, for three eager onlookers: two beagles named Jamie and Fred and a shepherd mix named Woody.

It was dog food, but not the kind most pet owners are used to seeing. And that’s the point.

“Actually what we’re doing is trying to mimic nature, what they’d eat in nature,” Palma said.

Palma, 38, and wife Michelle, 37, are opening a new pet-food store at 50th Street & Xerxes Avenue in June that will serve a variety of meat and produce concoctions for cats and dogs. The store will be named Woody’s Pet Food Deli in honor of their shepherd mix.

The Palmas moved to the U.S. from the Philippines in the late 1990s and were shocked to find pets eating dry food, something that didn’t happen back home. After settling in Minnesota a couple years ago and adopting Woody and Fred from a shelter, the Palmas started researching pet food.

They originally started their dogs, both which had multiple health problems, on dry pet food, since that was common in the U.S. But after researching the practices of some holistic veterinarians, Palma decided to put his dogs on a more natural diet, primarily consisting of meat.

“It just made common sense,” Palma said. “That’s how we were feeding our dogs back home, and that’s how we should do it over here.”

After starting with cooked meats and then converting to a fully raw diet, Palma said Woody’s problems with hair loss and untimely bowel movements went away. He also gained eight pounds, bringing him to a more normal weight, Palma said. Fred, who was obese, lost a bunch of weight and overcame some other health problems, Palma said.

Inspired, Palma decided to start his own business serving up raw and cooked meat such as grass-fed beef, lamb, quail and chicken. He didn’t waste any animal parts in the Philippines and he tries not to now either, so organs and ground bones are often included in the mix — they’re healthful and what dogs and cats would eat in the wild, Palma said.

Some meals, especially for cats, are 100 percent meat, but others are mixed with fruits, vegetables, rice and other ingredients. Palma uses all natural ingredients and also adds oils, vitamins and minerals.

Palma and his wife both work as analysts for Northwest Airlines but hope to one day make the pet-food deli their sole livelihood.

“The reason I really wanted to start this business, is to me, it’s really a mission to make a change,” Palma said.

Plus, he enjoys it.

“I really like making pet food for my dogs so I thought I might as well start this,” he said.

But making pet food from quality meat and produce isn’t cheap, so it won’t sell for cheap either. A one-pound container of food can range in price from $2.99 to $6, depending on the ingredients. All of the ingredients will be listed on containers and Palma said he plans to work with customers to discuss portion sizes and ingredients based on the type of dog or cat, activity level, health and other factors.

“It’s a pet store that wants to really get to know you and your pets and see what we can do to make them healthy,” Palma said.

Jim Sinning, who runs holistic and traditional clinic Lake Harriet Veterinary at 4249 Bryant Ave. S. with wife Cathy, said there is research to support both dry food and meat diets for pets. He said the needs of animals vary and there is no hard and fast rule.

“There does not seem to be a one-size-fits-all [answer],” he said.

But Sinning said homemade diets are often beneficial for a pet because an owner can control every ingredient. He said as long as the Palmas have a way of making sure their foods are well balanced, the store should be a hit in Southwest, where dog lovers seem abundant.

“I can’t think of a better location for something like this than in Southwest Minneapolis,” he said.

Jim Behrendt, who has run All J’s Tire at 50th & Xerxes for 35 years, said nontraditional pet food stores have come and gone from the area. But it’s a good spot for that type of business because it’s an affluent neighborhood, he said.

The corner is in a transition stage with multiple businesses closing. Behrendt said he hopes for the success of any business at the corner.

“I’d rather see a store in there trying to make it than an empty storefront,” he said.

Palma, who now makes food for three dogs after recently adding Jamie to the family, said he doesn’t fully know what to expect from the business. He and
Michelle live in Maplewood, Minn., but chose the Southwest store location because of the traditional neighborhood feel and support for independent businesses.

“Even if I can make a small difference, that’s fine,” Palma said. “As long as I gave it my best shot.”

Remodeling of the store is underway, and Palma expects to be open next month.

Woody’s Pet Food Deli
Location: 50th & Xerxes
Phone: 208-0335

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or [email protected]