The Big Bad Woof

Julie Paez and Pennye Jones-Napier in their store, the Big Bad Woof, laughing
Washington, D.C.

The Big Bad Woof is a pet store that brings health and sustainability to the community.

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Nestled in Washington, D.C.’s Takoma neighborhood is a one-of-a-kind pet store. Founded by business women Julie Paez and Pennye Jones-Napier in 2005, The Big Bad Woof merges green living ethics with pet supplies.

While they’ve always been committed to reducing their carbon footprint, these women business-owners have checked off several careers in their lifetimes – from web design to retail to property management. Yet it was their relationship with Artemis, a wolf-dog hybrid, that started their journey in sustainable pet supplies.

"She had diabetes,” Julie says. They realized that conventional dog food worsened Artemis’ health problems. “[The food] had corn in it, corn turns to sugar, which feeds the diabetes,” Julie continues.

They began searching for alternative dog food and discovered that raw foods would be a healthier option. This led them to investigate other pet supplies and their impacts. 14 years later, their store has established itself as a green pet care leader – it was voted as one of America’s Coolest Stores by Pets+ Magazine in 2018 and a Best of D.C. winner by the Washington City Paper in 2019.

“As a homage to our wolf pack, we named the store The Big Bad Woof,” says Julie, laughing.

Julie and Pennye are all about health, sustainability, and community. These three principles are the lifeblood of The Big Bad Woof and have sparked a green living consciousness among their partners and customers. They specialize in raw foods and opt for toxin-free alternatives whenever they can. They prefer purchasing close to home and will seek out local, regional, and USA-made businesses that are environmentally kind. And they have a unique relationship with their customers, who will come to them for advice and help them be as green as possible.

“We try to help customers solve problems,” says Julie. “We have an all-natural flea killer product that uses no chemicals, so the process is all mechanical... We’re very proud to be able to go the extra mile for our customers.”

They also go that extra mile to get products to the customer’s doorstep. The Big Bad Woof launched a delivery service in response to an old location’s terrible parking. While delivery services typically mean more single-use packaging, Julie and Pennye are always searching for new ways to repurpose waste.

“We reuse the boxes that our shipments come go back out to our customers when we’re delivering packages to them,” says Pennye. “We try to see how we can improve the cycle, constantly.”

“Customers return packaging to us and we slap a label on it, send it to TerraCycle, and they upcycle it,” Julie adds. “There’s a huge amount of product we are pulling out of the waste stream, and we’re only one store.”

Julie and Pennye are proponents of business supporting business. “I would say over the last 14 years, we’ve seen more businesses becoming environmentally friendly,” says Pennye. “If there’s a local or regional company, we’ll give them first preference. As long as their product will be an asset to our business model.”

“It’s about businesses communicating with each other and figuring out how they can support each other in a really useful and meaningful way,” adds Julie.

Like The Big Bad Woof, the Green Business Network supports green businesses across the country. The Big Bad Woof is a certified Green Business Network member.

Photo credit
Ralph Alswang