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Loyal Biscuit Co., a Rockland-based retailer with six pet-supply stores, has been acquired by EarthWise Pet, a chain with more than 150 stores nationwide.
In a press release Monday, Loyal Biscuit's founder and co-owner Heidi Neal said she believes EarthWise Pet's philosophy is very similar to the one she created with her business. The acquisition will enable the companies to provide greater support, expansive opportunities and additional services to the community.
"Partnering with EarthWise Pet will give my employees more opportunities to grow," said Neal. "Better employee benefits like health insurance, pet nutrition education and team support, plus the ability to add extra services like grooming and certified pet-dietitian consultations."
It's unclear at this stage if the stores will be rebranded with the EarthWise Pet name, the release said.
"EarthWise Pet prides itself on not being a big box pet store," said EarthWise Pet CEO Michael Seitz. "In fact, we have been leading locally-owned, community-focused pet supply stores with integrity for our entire existence. Our Pets Are Family mentality will continue as we foster and further the growth of what Heidi and her team have already built over the years and we hope the community continues to support the Loyal Biscuit and EarthWise Pet family."
Neal, a Rockland native and animal lover, had a banking background before buying Loyal Biscuit, working at Midcoast Federal Credit Union and Camden National Bank.
The journey began after a conversation with her then-boyfriend and now-husband Joel Neal about her interest in owning a business, Neal said when she was profiled in the Mainebiz Women to Watch issue in 2020.
Neal had been a customer at the Loyal Biscuit location in Rockland, and Joel Neal suggested she ask then-owner Lauren Hinsman if she wanted to sell. That was December 2009 and Neal took over the business in January 2010.
The company has 40 employees and six stores in Maine: in Bath, at 180 Front St.; Bangor-Brewer, Brewer Shopping Center; Belfast, Reny's Plaza; Camden-Rockport, Route 1; Rockland, 408 Main St.; and Waterville, 109 Main St.
EarthWise Pet describes itself as a pet nutrition store and wellness spa. It has over 150 locations and 40 years of experience. The company's first affiliate family-owned stores were opened in 1977 in Westminster, Calif., and in 1978 in Huntington Beach, Calif.
The deal comes at a time of change in the pet-supply retail landscape. Earlier this year, the owner of eight Loyal Companion stores announced it would close a total of 93 locations, including those trading under the Natural Pawz banner. At the time, in early February, Independent Pet Partners said it planned to restructure under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Since then, there have been unconfirmed reports that some of the Maine stores could be sold to other operators.