In the copy alongside these full-page Pet Food Express ads, coverage of the business' expansion plans by the paper's owner, Susan Dyer Reynolds, reads more like advocacy. A story about the opening of the Equinox Fitness center on Union oddly morphs into a pitch for Pet Food Express: "I don't know where the major community associations stand on the new Pet Food Express store, but since they were so supportive of Equinox moving into the neighborhood, I hope they will give them a fair chance this time around."

A Reynolds column about the June Small Business Commission meeting referred to critics of Pet Food Express as ethically suspect hypocrites; it neglected to note that Reynolds herself spoke in favor of Pet Food Express at the hearing she was ostensibly covering. A story in the current edition of the paper is headlined "The halo effect: How 20 years of giving turned Pet Food Express into an animal angel."

Both Reynolds and Marina Times publisher Earl Adkins denied the paper is simply carrying the water for a major advertiser. Adkins claims the paper actually loses money from offering ad space to Pet Food Express, with whom it has "a partnership relationship."

Reynolds is a devoted animal advocate who has written 56 "chapters" in her paper about her rescued pit bull Jasmine and penned a damning 2009 expose of the San Francisco Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Adkins doesn't deny the paper's advocacy for Pet Food Express: "They do great rescue work. Why shouldn't it be promoted? Why hide it? Why bury it?"

The Marina Times feels it's on the side of the angels. Quite literally, according to its own headlines.


The most ardent Pet Food Express supporter, however, might be the Lombard Business Merchants Association. Since its formation in August of last year — not long before the Pet Food Express battle shifted back onto the political radar — it established a Change.org petition in favor of the chain and, in an unusual move, filed ethics charges against personnel at the Small Business Commission for wording an agenda item in a manner it felt detrimental to Pet Food Express. (The long-established Marina Merchants Association and Marina Community Association, meanwhile, have both come out against Pet Food Express moving into the neighborhood).

Numerous Marina merchants report that LBMA president, pizzeria owner Awadalla Awadalla, has been pounding the pavement soliciting members alongside lobbyist Stefano Cassolato. Awadalla affirms this, calling Cassolato a friend; Cassolato did not return phone calls.

At a recent City Hall meeting, Cassolato spoke on behalf of Pet Food Express, identifying himself as "a paid consultant" to "an attorney who has done a lot of research on the Lombard corridor." In fact, Cassolato is listed on the city's lobbyist registry as working for the law firm of Henn, Etzel & Moore. John Moore, who spoke shortly after Cassolato at the City Hall meeting, is Pet Food Express' general counsel.

In June, Awadalla reported he had 19 members. Now, he says he has 40.


At that June meeting, beleaguered Small Business Commissioner Luke O'Brien summed up his body's plight in choosing whether to side with benevolent chain Pet Food Express or the small pet store owners who claim it will muscle them out of business: "You're damned if you do and damned if you don't."

The Small Business Commission managed to sidestep this conundrum by taking no position, continuing the matter to a future meeting, then continuing it again indefinitely. Problem solved.

The Planning Commission can't take that tack. Sooner or later, a decision must be made and someone will be damned.

The adage states that it's not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog. Pet Food Express seems to have the edge in both categories.

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3 comments
Cameraguy
Cameraguy

Keeping out certain chain stores is a good idea. Walmart would have you think they are there for the community but do many things that prove they are there to please the bottom line. the list of chain stores that have motivated anti chain store ordinances can go on and on. Why should a terrific organization like Pet Food Express be lumped into the same nasty cauldron just because they have more than 11 stores? Their business is not one of conquering a market and obtaining bigger profits. This surely must be obvious with the extraordinary time, effort and expense they go through to give to animals that which we as humans long for. Love, a safe place to live and a friend.

whoanelly21
whoanelly21

Seems like a win-win for the neighborhood & the rescued cats. After all, Lombard looks just terrible and these Pet Food Express stores are attractive. Anyway, seems like the Lombard St customers would be different than the Chestnut St clientele. That space has been empty and ugly for too long, I say let a local chain that started w/ one store in San Francisco step it up!

marina94123
marina94123

@whoanelly21 It has been empty and ugly for so long because Pet Food Express signed a 10 year lease in 2009 and have been letting the building on Lombard Street rot ever since. 

 
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