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Howie's Harvest - pet food bank

In emergencies, tight spots, and economic lows such as the one we’ve been enduring many people rely on supplemental community relief organizations such as clothes closets, church vouchers, and food banks to make it through temporarily. Here in the 573 we pride ourselves for our hospitality and the ability to come together to fill great needs when people are struggling. With drives for everything from food to toys we have our friends, family, and community neighbors pretty much covered. But what about our furry friends?

With drives for everything from food to toys we have our friends, family, and community neighbors pretty much covered. But what about our furry friends?

Fortunately here in the 573 an amazing local business asked that very same question.

Busch Pets Products has been serving the community supplying a large variety of gourmet/organic pet foods, pet toys and accessories, and amazing supplements for your pets’ health, happiness, and longevity for over 12 years now! Created by owner Stacy Busch in 2008, Busch Pets Products was originally an online store carrying cute pet accessories like Blingy collars, but quickly expanded to supplying anything you could ever want for your fur baby including wholesome natural foods.

Today Stacy Busch-Heisserer and husband Chris have built quite the impressive Busch Pets empire. With Deer Creek Doggie Day Camp, Busch Kennel, and an impressive 1,800 sq foot brick and mortar Busch Pets Products store in Cape Girardeau, Missouri with wall to wall cat and dog products you can’t find anywhere else, and a super convenient self-service dog wash and spa (for both cats & dogs) with 3 stations, complete with all kinds of products to pamper your pets, you can definitely say they’ve grown!

Busch Pets Products has been serving the community supplying a large variety of gourmet/organic pet foods, pet toys and accessories, and amazing supplements for your pets’ health, happiness, and longevity for over 12 years now!

Building an empire is very commendable in and of itself, but you know you’ve found amazing people when they not only succeed in business, but also in life and true humanity as well. In 2015 Busch Pets Products started a program called Howie’s Harvest. Named after their beloved cat and store mascot Howie, the program raised money to purchase high quality dog and cat food to be donated to SEMO Food Bank, an organization keeping the people and now pets of Southeast Missouri fed and healthy even in hard times.

“We realized that there was a need for people to have good pet food,” explained Stacy, “So we contacted the SEMO Food Bank. They had no outlet for pet food at the time, so we started working with them and we started collecting donations and the rest is history.”

Looking around the store, we noticed how extensive the variety of food there was, and as for the quality of ingredients...well, I think it’s safe to say that the lucky pets who get their food from Busch Pets Products are in fact eating better than we

Can you tell us about the food you carry?

Here at the store we actually do have everything from dry food to canned food to freeze dried to raw and we specialize in health and pet nutrition for dogs and cats. Now what we donate to the food bank is typically canned or dry food because it is more shelf stable and more easily distributed to families in need.

Why is it important to feed your pet high quality food?

Just like with people, the better the nutrition the fewer the health problems that they’ll have later on and we’re all about prevention. So if you start on a good protocol of good quality food, your dog’s gonna live a lot longer and have fewer health problems.

What’s the difference between this food and what you can get at like Wal-mart or something?

Most of your mass marketed foods contain a lot of fillers and the worst offenders are corn and soy. Those foods are just not good. They’re not digestible for most dogs. Most dogs are really more meat eaters and cats are obligate carnivores so they should not have a lot of grains in their diet at all.

Tell us about the doggie day care!

Deer Creek Doggie Day Camp was founded in 2015. We had a lot of customers coming in the store saying that they were looking for a good quality day care where they could drop off their dogs each day. We actually had our eye on an empty building that used to be a private school and we bought it and turned it into a private doggie day care.

What we do, before any dog can become a camper over at Deer Creek we do a temperament test or compatibility test where they actually are brought in and they interact with some of our regular campers and that helps us determine if the dog is gonna be a good fit for day care. We’re not just doing it as a popularity contest, we really want these dogs to fit in and interact. Some dogs are not day care dogs and some are perfectly suited for it, so that’s what we’re trying to figure out from the get go. Then they’re placed into groups based on their size and their energy level.

Tell us how your business has been coping during Covid.

It’s been pretty good. The store’s been busy. We offer delivery and curbside to help people who aren’t able to get out, or didn’t feel comfortable getting out so that’s just been a normal part of our routine. The Doggie Day Care, we had a few dogs pull out just because their parents were working from home, but it’s picking back up again. We never had to close either location, so that made me feel good.

Tell us more about Howie and his harvest.

Howie was the resident store cat, given to me in 2010, right before we were set to move from our original tiny store into our current location. I was told he was a kitten, but he was actually a very grown up 11-month-old cat! He was friendly and took to store life quickly. He tested all the cat trees and beds, and helped sell quite a few of them over the years. Our customers all loved him so much and looked for him each time they came by to shop. Even the non-cat lovers said he was the only cat they really liked. He was great with the dogs and didn't hesitate to approach a dog customer if he felt like it. He really loved our UPS driver, and sought him out each time he entered the store.

When it came time to really think about the food bank partnership, I knew our contribution needed a name, something that people would remember. Howie's Harvest seemed to be the right fit. As we progressed with seasonal fundraisers to buy food for the SEMO Food Bank, we kept up with tradition and one of our main fundraisers, Howie's Hearts, was born. Each Valentine's Day, customers purchase red hearts to display in the store in memory of a past or current pet. All the money we raise from the sale of the hearts goes to buy food to be donated to the Food Bank. Howie was always more than gracious to pose with the hearts, which covered all of our front windows!

Sadly, Howie left us unexpectedly in early September. All of us are heartbroken. So are our customers. Many of them said they couldn't bear to come by the store until they had grieved, just as we have been. Several of them cried over his loss (and we sometimes still do). The store is so different, quiet, without him, but his legacy will live on for the life of our business. We have stickers, necklace charms, and neck gaiters with his image on them and we will continue to sell one final Howie Christmas ornament and Christmas sweatshirt this year, with the proceeds once again going to purchase pet food to be donated to the SEMO Food Bank.

I have a feeling Howie knew he was special, but of course, all cats think they are. To us here at the store and to our great customers, he was a one in a million cat.

What’s next for Busch Pets?

We are actually gonna be moving the store hopefully right after the first of the year, maybe by February. We purchased the strip mall which is right next door to Deer Creek Doggie Day Camp and we’re going to be moving the store there, so we’re actually gonna triple our square footage, we’re gonna expand our tub offerings, and we have some other surprises in store too!

Like everything else the Busch Pets team have done so far, their plans for the future sound amazing! I can’t wait to see how they grow over this next year. Until then 573, to you and also our furry friends, be happy, be healthy, be well!

Written by AJ Koehler


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