Most entrepreneurs aim to make a profit off the businesses they run — but Brittany Feldman and her colleagues just want to save the animals.
Feldman is the president and co-founder of Shelter Chic, a nonprofit animal rescue and pet accessories boutique at 79 Chambers St.
While volunteering at the Villalobos Rescue Center — the New Orleans shelter in the TV show “Pit Bulls and Parolees” — where she has sponsored dogs since 2012, Feldman, 31, was inspired to start one herself, with profits from the retail component funding her rescue operation.
The Manhattan native and former special education teacher teamed up with vice president and co-founder Amanda Folk, 31, who has a background in accounting and finance. They incorporated Shelter Chic in September 2014 and got its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in January 2015. After raising nearly $20,000 at a fundraiser at TAO Downtown, Feldman, Folk and Tracy Venezia, 34, the company’s director of client services, opened Shelter Chic in October 2015.
The store joined other adoption-friendly businesses like Meow Parlour, New York City’s first cat cafe, and Cauz For Pawz, a nonprofit thrift store, both of which donate proceeds to animal shelters in the city.
The ladies behind Shelter Chic, though, do their own rescuing, taking in stray animals from municipal shelters and sometimes even the street.
Since it opened, the store has attracted about 400 customers, and its accompanying website (shelterchic.org) had close to 20,000 visitors as of the end of March. It’s also helped find homes for 17 dogs and 13 cats so far.
“We serve two markets — people looking to adopt or foster and people coming in to shop, or both,” Feldman explained.
With cheeky artwork and splashes of leopard print and neon colors, the boutique channels Feldman’s style icon, Patricia Field.
Kenneth Colosk, 54, regularly pops in to visit the resident kitties and pick up quirky items for his three Maine Coons.
“They have one-of-a-kind items for pets and people,” he said. “I was thrilled to see vegan collars and a BK Atelier pet carrier, which I purchased along with a set of cat-head-shaped food bowls.”
The merchandise, which is sold on consignment, includes pet beds, carriers, toys decorative pillows and novelty T-shirts from local and international brands such as Lucy Liu’s Le Roar and New York City-based Little L’s All Natural Artisan Dog Treats.
For customers looking to take home a new pet, adoption fees are $150 for kittens and cats, $250 for dogs and $300 for puppies (under a year).
Minus the cost of running a business and consignment fees, all of the shop’s sales profits pay for veterinary care, food and other supplies for Shelter Chic’s rescued animals. Feldman, along with her staff, doesn’t take a salary and instead tutors students privately to make ends meet.
The company is planning to hold another benefit on April 28 at Avenue, a nightclub at 116 10th Ave.
While running a nonprofit isn’t easy, Feldman said the lives her company saves makes it all worth it.
“It has been a challenging, but unbelievably rewarding experience,” she said. “We try to take it one step and one day at a time, and we always stay focused on our ultimate goal to help more animals find forever homes.”