SHOW LOW — Sandy Morgan is the owner of Perfect Paws on the Cooley-Deuce split in Show Low. You may or may not see her if you go into the pet store, but she is there, usually grooming dogs in the back.
“People say, we come in and you are never there,” said Morgan, “but I am always here.”
Such is the life of a successful, hardworking small business owner. As a small business person, Morgan is totally responsible for her business and the employees and all of the overhead. She has to generate her income. She is, therefore, always working, or networking, giving back to the community, taking care of her family, and on rare occasion, steeling a few moments of to actually do something for herself.
Morgan grew up in Westchester, California, a secluded neighborhood in the City of Los Angeles. Her mom was a secretary and her dad a Los Angeles police officer who was injured on the job. Her parents divorced when she was five, but her single mom served as a role model for perseverance and hard work. Her mom worked as a secretary for TRW but had ambitions. Though it took her 13 years, her mom went back to school and earned her master’s degree, and a PhD in Education, no small feat.
After high school, Morgan went to junior college and then worked as a secretary herself.
Later in her married life, she opened her first pet store at age 27 in Sherman Oaks and then a second one in Northridge.
The seed for the pet store most likely germinated from her grandparents in Pasadena who owned a pet store in the 50s, which was more like a feed store with pets and they did have pets, Poodles, the rage in those days.
Though business was good in California, Morgan had two kids in pre-school, ages 4 and 6. The school was right across the street from the high school, and the joke was the pre-school had private security. Secret service were always there because President Reagan’s grandchildren went there.
Even with the security, Morgan did not like what she began to see at the high school on that street, and the family began entertaining thoughts of exiting California to raise their children.
Morgan sold her pet stores, and she and her husband at the time, Michael Keele, moved the family to the White Mountains where Sandy’s dad and step mom lived.
Her husband obtained the Roto-Rooter franchise for this area, but she soon saw they needed more money to live on. Sandy immediately saw she needed to generate her own income She went to work in sales for Hugh Williams at KVSL. Later she moved on to work for Dave Robbins at KRFM , where she became sales manager. Her left there to go to work in Springerville for Ted Barbone with KQAZ and KRVZ radio part time. She also took a part time job with the newspaper there.
Working the two part time jobs allowed Morgan to get back on the path towards owing a pet store again. That was 1995. She made time for grooming at K&R Feeds, which was at that time next door to her present location.
When the building next to K&R became available, Sandy started the process of searching for a small business loan to purchase the building to open Perfect Paws. Though the deal took so long it almost fell through, she persevered and finally got the funding. That was 1997.
Though it looks so easy when you walk in the store today, and see all of her merchandise and all of the live pets, the customers looking around and at the register, the journey Sandy Morgan has made to present day success has not been without obstacles.
Divorced when she started the business, and a single Mom building the business, Sandy was surprised with a diagnosis of breast cancer in 2002. With no cancer center at the time, she had to go to the Valley for surgery and radiation treatment, taking her away from her business and her children who were 15 and 17 at the time.
She would head to the Valley and stay with friends on Monday, receive her treatments all week, and return home on Friday to handle everything else. She had an employee who helped with her kids and other things, an ex-husband close by who also helped with the kids, but she had to face her treatments alone, but in stride.
“I didn’t have any problems. I had the surgery and then the radiation was easy. I didn’t have to have chemo. The radiation took about an hour each day and, really, I did well. You could say I was the poster child for radiation.”
She is cancer free today and does have regular mammograms.
One day Sandy was listening to the radio and heard Main Street Director Sharon Adams talking about Main Street. As soon as the show was over, she gave Sharon a call and volunteered to be a part of the Main Street efforts since her business was on Main Street. That was many years ago and she is still on that board. In fact, she is President of the Fourth of July Rodeo and under her leadership it has grown from one day to two sanctioned event and attracts 3,000 people.
Working with Main Street helped the community, and helped Sandy as she continued to build her small business.
Not long after her radiation treatment ended, Sandy met her husband Tom Morgan. That relationship led to marriage and the two have been working hard to build their future towards retirement and make a difference in the community.
Tom is the Arena Manager for the Rodeo and for work, like many White Mountain couples, he has had to work out of state, as he is currently. They make it work, talk to each other every day and he comes home as often as he can.
When 2008’s economic downturn touched the nation, Perfect Paws was hit too. She cut employees, tightened her belt every way that could and just worked harder while waiting for the storm to pass.
Before it passed though, Sandy had a heart attack. That was 2010 or 12, she doesn’t recall exactly. She was up and down one night until about 2 a.m. She had the classic pain running down her left arm, she was sweating and having trouble breathing. She wondered if she was having a heart attack, but just paced back and forth, not wanting to wake anyone up. Like many, she was also knew her insurance was not that good. Her husband was out of town working and the pain was not unbearable, so finally went back to bed and went to sleep. The next morning, when she and her husband spoke, she told him about it, and he told her he thought she did have a heart attack.
Morgan called the doctor’s office and told them what happened and they told her to come on in. Unfortunately, being the boss and a small business owner, she had a full day of grooming ahead of her and two appointments regarding advertising which had been set. She told them she could come Friday. That was Tuesday. On Friday, she learned she did have a heart attack and that sent her to the cardiologist which sent her to the Valley for a stent. Driven, and responsible, Sandy was back at work within a week. She tells everyone not to wait like she did, but these are the kind of things a small business owner faces – trying to make it all work.
Luckily she loves what she does, and Sandy survived competition and the lull in the economy not just in 2008, but 9, 10 and 11. She said she had to expand during that time to keep up with the competition to survive.
“I had gotten behind and found myself digging out,” said Morgan, “but I just kept working.”
The store today is very inviting, having expanded and gotten a new facade since its original opening.
“We are the only live pet store around,” said Morgan. “We have added Added salt water fish and have spread out so we are less crowded. We expanded our fresh water fish, and reptiles. We have more live stock because we have more room.”
“People come in to look at the pets. My Grandma always said that people will come in to look at the pets. We are a zoo.”
“We have schools come in for tours of the store, and we do presentations every summer on reptiles and amphibians.”
A local business man and a county supervisor tell Morgan that getting to visit her store is a reward for their children. If they do their chores and get good grades, they get to visit Perfect Paws.
With her focus on giving back to the community and having a successful business, Sandy Martin has just “worked.” Thinking a bit about retirement with 65 on the horizon, she visited with a local financial expert to see where she was.
Much to her surprise, and proof of her hard work and focus, he told her she had done just what she was supposed to. She bought property and kept it – did not sell it. So retirement will come.
Her Dad has passed away and the house in Lake Havasu is occupied right now, but she would love to be able to winter in Havasu and spend summers in the White Mountains. She and Tom have a boat but they have not gotten to use it lately. Taking her family to Lake Powell is a big item on her bucket list. They both love the outdoors. She even has a horse and loves to ride, but running a small business she has not gotten to ride him lately either.
When he husband comes home, they love to go to Licano’s and dance and listen to Armoir Gomez. They did give themselves a valentine’s get away to Laughlin, all on the spur of the moment, a rarity in their lives.
Her kids are grown now. Nikki is married and teaches seventh and eight graders at the Junior High and Matt is also married, works for his Dad and has given her two grandkids who are 13 and 9, and like she did with her grandparents who had a pet store, they learned to bag crickets as soon as they were born.
“I feel good about what I have done,” said Morgan. “I have worked hard.”
For anyone starting out in business, I would tell them to be honest with their customers and to be involved in the community. You must offer service to your community. Give back. Fill a need and be educated on what you do. It is all PR. You have to serve the people.”
For Sandy Morgan, who has not slowed down since she first started, slowing down is in her cards, but not yet.
It is said, “All roads that lead to success have to pass through hard work boulevard at some point.”
Sandy Morgan has passed through more than one of those stop signs on that road.
It is time to slow down.