Howard Soldan (Senior) purchased an existing store in 1955, which primarily catered to farmers, selling products such as feed and fertilizer. Known as Ruhf's Feed Store, it served the Lansing market under Soldan's leadership until he sold it in 1972. Howard and Erna Soldan intended to semi-retire and spend their summers on Mackinac Island with their youngest son, Howard Soldan II. They began enjoying some leisure time, expecting that a chapter of their lives had ended.
As fate would have it, in 1976, the new owners went bankrupt, and the business was back in the hands of the Soldan family. Howard & Erna Soldan were committed to get it up and running again, with the intent of selling the business to resume traveling and semi-retirement. Howard Soldan II, then a junior at Holt High School, started working in the business after school and on weekends. He was given a small section of the store to experiment with and began adding an expanded line of pet supplies, collars, bowls, toys, treats, etc. Slowly, pet supply sales started to exceed that of the farm supplies. The family decided to pursue the pet supply idea, and rather than sell the business, to stick it out.
As it turned out, they did much more than just "stick it out". They worked long hours and watched the company grow. In the mid eighties, Howard Soldan II slowly took on the role of visionary and risk taker of the company. In 1985, they moved out of the original store and moved into a new facility built behind the original store. In 1987, they added a second location. In the early 1990's, three additional stores were added. In 1999, Soldan's purchased a three store, independent chain in the Michigan Tri-City Area. Additional locations were added in 2000 and 2004. After several renovations, some moves, and the closing of a couple of stores, Soldan's, today consists of eight retail locations plus a mill.
Competing with the "Big Dogs"
It seems everyone wants a "piece" of the pet specialty business - whether it's the national pet supply chains, the warehouse clubs, grocery stores, mass market, or internet websites. Competition is healthy. Soldan's has to constantly strive to differentiate itself from the competition. Soldan's has earned an excellent reputation for customer service. The Soldan's employees are proactive in their approach to helping the customers - greeting each customer, answering questions, locating the right products, transferring products, handling special orders, carrying out purchases, thanking our customers, etc... In addition, keeping prices competitive and offering a large selection of products is a key to our success.
After several renovations and some relocations, Soldan’s stands 8 stores wide and 90 staff members tall. Every day holds a new challenge, but it is the personal relationships with our community of pet lovers that I value the most.
As of November 2014 my only daughter joined us full time. I am beyond proud to say that she is third generation and will be driving this company forward for another 60 years.
Nikki & Howard Soldan II outside of their MLK store before their 60th anniversary in September, 2015.
Howard Soldan II President of Soldan's Pet Supplies
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