Doggy Dynasty

How the Chuck & Don’s founders created a pet store empire.
Chuck Anderson, left, and Bob Hartzell, along with their four-legged friends, Chilli, Geno and Jolene.

Chuck & Don’s, the pet store mecca that welcomes four-legged creatures as much as the two-legged variety, didn’t, as it turns out, start as a store idea at all.

Chuck Anderson and his wife Sharon—both avid dog-lovers—began training dogs in 1972. Wanting to make this passion a career, they purchased the Animal Inn Boarding Kennel in Lake Elmo in 1978, and added an on-site training center in 1986. After a time, however, they became more and more burnt out by the hectic, around-the-clock pace of the boarding business and were looking for a change. That’s when fate intervened.

While at a dog-training show, Chuck met Don Tauer; few could have predicted the journey the two partners would embark on in the coming years. “After my wife and I got tired of the kennel business, we decided to sell. When Don first came to the training building, we got to talking,” says Chuck Anderson, co-founder and owner of Chuck & Don’s. “My wife and I were having more fun in the training business than in the kenneling business, so we decided to sell the kenneling operation. I asked Don if he was interested, and he was.”

Anderson and Tauer made a deal on the kenneling business and decided to divide the property so each party could focus on their particular area of expertise. Here’s where it gets interesting. “Between the kennel and training facility, we were selling about a truck-and-a-half of dog food a month. As we kept selling more and more dog food, we got to the point where one day Don said, ‘You know, we ought to open a store.’ Once we finally signed all of the papers, my wife and I got back in the car and I said to her, ‘Look at this car,’ and she said, ‘Yeah, what about it?’ I said, ‘If this doesn’t work, this is all we have.’ That gave us a lot of incentive to go forward,” Anderson says.

In May 1990, they opened their first store in Eagan. Anderson and Tauer split the work duties, with each of them working a half-day and divvying up the weekends. Their goal was to create a locally owned and operated pet supply outlet that might never rival the size of giant competitors, but would always provide superior service. This philosophy is evident in everything from their well-informed employees, who carry customers’ items to their car, to in-store pet photos, handwritten notes to customers, community involvement and a frequent buyer’s program aptly named Friends of Chuck.

“We’re a local store where everybody knows your name,” says Anderson. “If you come to Chuck & Don’s and you need a half an hour to make a decision, we will spend a half an hour with you. It’s not a matter of saying a product is over there and that’s the last you see of anybody. We supply superb service and knowledge. It becomes a destination stop for the areas around us.”

A year after they opened that initial store, they opened another store in Eden Prairie (which has since closed). Today, they have 20 stores in Minnesota, all within the seven-county metro area, and another five in Denver; their corporate office is located in the same building as the Mahtomedi store.

Due to health issues, Tauer has since opted to bow out of the company. But Anderson has no intentions of slowing down. He has, however, brought in Bob Hartzell as CEO and president to help with the company’s forward momentum.

“It’s a situation where we found that once we started offering the service and the knowledge that we possess, we got more and more customers,” says Anderson. “We went from one store to 25. We went from Don and I as the only employees to 300. It has a life of its own now.”


Chuck & Don’s
910 Wildwood Road Mahtomedi