BRIDGEPORT — Does Fido eat organic and all-natural dog food?
He probably should, says Laura Fratto, owner of Bark N Bites, a new pet supply store at 702 W. 35th St.
She said most mass-produced pet food is made with potentially harmful chemical fillers, preservatives and binders, which can lead to pet diseases such as kidney stones, gall stones, irritable bowel syndrome and cancer.
"You wouldn't want to give [some of this food] to a crocodile let alone a pet that you love," she said.
Fratto said she began studying up on pet food ingredients a few years back after tweaking the diet of Princess, the family's beloved Chihuahua. She says she saw positive behavior and health changes that lasted throughout the pup's remaining years.
That's when she began taking pet nutrition seriously — and when the former preschool teacher began considering a career as owner of a boutique pet store in her native Bridgeport.
With the youngest of the couple's five kids off to college, Fratto and her husband Russell moved from the southwest suburbs and back into the neighborhood and soon got to work on the storefront, formerly a massage parlor.
Now, the shelves are packed with items from manufacturers that Fratto — who now owns two dogs, Louie and Mia — has vouched for, with an emphasis on locally-made products, including treats from Lincoln Park's Lincoln Bark, shampoos from Near North Side-based Bobbi Panter and chew sticks and bones from Rockford's Jones Natural Chew Co.
And what's not locally made is researched extensively to ensure there are no bogus health claims.
Fratto said she's worked hard to have a good relationship with responsible suppliers, and hopes to extend those relationships with her customers and to become a hub for pet owners to ask questions and pick up supplies.
And she also wants to emphasize that small-batch pet foods aren't necessarily expensive.
"I would never want people to be put off by the word natural or organic and equate that to costly. Raising five children, we certainly understand being budget conscious. We have quality foods at several price points," she said. "Everyone should be able to feel good about the food choices for their pets and not break the bank."
Bark N Bites is open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon-Fri and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat and Sun. The store can be reached by calling (312) 265-1205. A grand opening scheduled for later this spring.