More than retail, Hollywood Feed helps animals in need

From April to May, Memphis Animal Services saw a 43 percent increase in the number of cats and dogs in its shelter. The situation was so dire, MAS made a plea to the public to help rehome 200 animals in danger of euthanasia.

But even in less critical times, MAS and other local animal shelters and rescues agencies work closely with individual volunteers, community organizations and businesses such as Hollywood Feed for supplies, adoptions, foster homes and educating the public on ways to reduce the number of stray and abandoned pets. 

Hollywood Feed has eleven locations across the Memphis metro area. The retailer is known for high quality pet products, but it's also committed to pet training, educating owners and supporting organizations like MAS, both locally and nationally. 

“We’re the people that stop on the side of the road to pick up dogs, foster them with rescue groups and try to find them homes,” said Hollywood Feed co-owner and senior buyer Jean McGhee.

“We do a lot of fostering at Hollywood Feed, at any given time I bet there are ten fosters at the corporate office," she continued. "Many times when people start to work with us they have one dog and within six months they have three and a cat.”

McGhee and her family own four dogs, four cats, two pythons, a turtle and a fish.

Over the years the company has contributed thousands of dollars of supplies, donations and countless volunteers to MAS, the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County and countless other foster and rescue organizations. It also facilitates a spaying and neuter program to combat overpopulation. 

“The most important thing to combat overpopulation is to spay and neuter your animals," said McGhee. "We have more animals than there are people wanting them and to keep us from having to euthanize animals [spay and neuter] makes sense.”

Hollywood Feed's new free-standing retail shop at 434 Collins Street replaced their old retail shop and distribution center on Broad Avenue. (Submitted)

If a customer returns usable food, for example if their pet just doesn't like it, Hollywood Feed donates the food to the Humane Society, MAS and other organizations. They also offer customers a discount on their first shopping spree for a newly adopted pet when the customers brings in the adoption paperwork. 

"That is one of the reasons why I wanted to work here," said employee Heidi Smith. "I used to be a vet tech and the support that they give to our local shelters and our rescue groups is amazing. They give away thousands and thousands of dollars of food every year, and that's all of our stores, not just in Memphis."

Hollywood Feed also sponsors Overton Bark dog park and dog parks in the Harbor Town and Sea Isle neighborhoods.

“I feel like the number one reason dogs get returned to [shelters] is because of behavioral issues," said McGhee. "The more that people can get out and spend time with their dogs and the better behaved the dogs, the better the bond is between the person and the dog. If you can exercise your dog it’s less likely to be destructive."

far from dog days  

Hollywood Feed was founded in Memphis in 1950.  McGhee and her husband Shawn took over operations in 2006. Under their leadership, the business grew from three local locations to 99 stores in fourteen states including Texas, the Carolinas, Florida, Ohio and Indiana. The business is a family affair with the McGhees' children often working at the stores.

The family will soon open their 100th location in Tulsa, Okla. and have plans to open 20 more by 2020.

The company recently moved its corporate headquarters from Broad Avenue to 1341 Warford Street in order to better accommodate their distribution operations. 

“As [Broad] redeveloped and grew, having our tractor trailers back up to make deliveries all day, everyday was a hindrance to the other businesses on Broad Avenue," said McGhee. "[We] needed a place that could better accommodate our warehouse and the activity in our warehouse. I think they were happy with our move.”

They relocated their distribution center but built a new free-standing retail location at 434 Collins Street just off Broad Avenue to continue serving the area.

“There’s continued energy and redevelopment going on in this neighborhood and this neighborhood has been super supportive," said McGhee. 

The business offers a wide variety of products and services including proprietary baked treats produced at the Hollywood Feed Bakery at 2015 Union Ave. They also offer other unique edibles like jerky made in Gainesville, Georgia and organic goat milk for dogs.

“Goat’s milk is an anti-inflammatory and antihistamine, which aids digestion, a healthy coat, and yeasty, itchy eyes and ears," said McGhee, who said the store also offers goat milk soap. 

Hollywood Feed produces its own line of pet supplies including leashes, collars and dog beds made in Mississippi using local cotton and recycled plastic bottles. 

A customer's dog tries out Hollywood Feed's line of Mississippi-made dog beds. Hollywood offers its own line of beds, leashes and collars. (Submitted)

“I think by helping people to have the knowledge and the supplies that they need to take care of the pet, we help reduce the number of animals in shelters," said McGhee. 

"We're very knowledgeable, and I love sharing that knowledge with people," said employee Gwenyth Stoecker. "I love that we can be honest with our customers. For us, it's not about making the sale, it's about doing what's right for their [pets]."
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Baris Gursakal.

Baris Gursakal is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He is an Istanbul native who grew up in Memphis, and has an interest in public policy and social justice issues.