Pets, pets everywhere - sticking noses out of cars, basking in sunny windows, trotting next to their humans. And despite big-box national chains, numerous small pet shops survive
(even thrive) in this tough economy - by catering to their neighborhoods' needs.
Here are some that have found a niche:
Community Pet Shop
HOURS 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 12-5 p.m. Sunday
ABOUT Bill and Carole Eibs have been in the heart of Huntington village since 1986. And their philosophy is simple: "You're not my customer," Bill says. "The dog is. You're just the portable ATM." And: "Sometimes we'll talk you out of something if we don't think you need it."
WHAT'S SPECIAL Natural foods - brands include Orijen, Wellness, Solid Gold, Go! ($10-$60); 280 choices of collars, harnesses and leads; unusual gifts (breed-specific wind chimes; a Hillary Rodham Clinton dog toy when last she ran for office). Grooming and delivery, too.
765-6 Deer Park Ave., North Babylon
INFO 631-669-2099, cozypettlc.com
HOURS 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily
ABOUT Sue Carmody has owned this (cozy) shop for eight years and sells many surprising items. Pennsylvania-based Michael's holistic foods are human-grade stews that look delicious, sold in glass jars ($3.79-$5.49). Carmody says AvoDerm cat food cuts down on hairballs.
WHAT'S SPECIAL Lovely coats and sweaters, even handmade wools by Chilly Dog (an Irish sweater sports a shamrock); beds (plush shark, $48.99), and car seats ($75-$129). The grooming salon has half-doors; watch your pet get gorgeous (one at a time; no cages).
Roosevelt Field Mall, Garden City
HOURS 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday
ABOUT From the land of dressed-up dogs comes Han-Nari, a Japanese chain with more than 140 stores, and only one in the United States - in Roosevelt Field. If you like to dress up your doggy (or your cat, ha-ha), dozens of outfits for "boys and girls up to 85 pounds," says assistant manager Stephanie Ferraro (tuxedos! wedding dresses! jeans!), range from $13.50-$58.
WHAT'S SPECIAL In J. Press, the newest line, a plaid skirt, sweater and collared shirt make a preppy pooch. Doggy strollers ($268-$298) hold up to 20 pounds.
38 Vanderbilt Pkwy., Commack
HOURS 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
ABOUT Herb and Linda Kepke have owned this friendly full-service pet store, where even cats get groomed, for 10 years. Find "natural body part treats" - from "puffed" pigs' ears (Porky Chews, $2.99) to lambs' ears and even "bull sticks" (you don't want to know; $4.99).
WHAT'S SPECIAL Dog PJs - "some people keep their homes cold, so dogs get cold, too," Herb says ($12) - to genuine sheepskin coats ($80, small); steps to get down from a bed ($70-$120), car booster seats ($40) and a snazzy leopard print chaise longue ($60).
245 Roslyn Rd, Roslyn Heights
HOURS 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 12-5 p.m. Sunday
ABOUT Seth Kaplan has owned this adorable store, in a red-white-and-blue house painted with rising suns, for 20 years, catering to celebs such as Howard Stern.
"Everything that we do here is the very best, so it's not inexpensive - but it's the best," Kaplan says.
WHAT'S SPECIAL Frozen raw food pure protein diets, such as Nature's Variety ($19.95-$33). Toys include celeb trainer Victoria Stillwell's Chase-It, a skunk/squirrel on a stick ($34) for puppies. A to-die-for Italian snakeskin collar with crystal grommets is $174.95.