Owner finalizes transfer of 5 Dave’s Soda and Pet City stores to Smithland Supply

  • Dave Ratner, owner of Dave’s Soda and Pet City, speaks to a dozen members of the Senate Retail Task Force during a hearing at Union Station in Northampton, Feb. 5, 2018. Ratner has sold all but one of his stores. GAZETTE FILE Photo/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 10/3/2019 11:56:49 PM
Modified: 10/3/2019 11:56:39 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Dave Ratner, owner of Dave’s Soda and Pet City, has been running a significantly downsized business for months, but you’d have never known it.

More than six months ago Ratner sold five of his six stores to My Agway, now Smithland Supply. But it was only on Wednesday that he announced the transfer to the public.

“We wanted not to scare our customers,” Ratner said, explaining why the change wasn’t announced sooner.

The Northampton, Hadley, Ware, Ludlow and Stafford Springs, Connecticut, stores were all taken over in March.

“Really, nothing has changed,” said Ratner. “The proof is in the pudding.”

Ratner, however, will be keeping his Agawam store, which is seven minutes from his house and where the offices of Dave’s Soda and Pet City are.

In a video posted on his Facebook page on Wednesday, Ratner explained his decision.

“After 44 years, it was time for me to downsize,” he says in the video.

On why he kept the Agawam store, Ratner listed both staying on the board of the National Retail Federation and understanding what retailers are going through for his pet food business. Ratner’s pet food is distributed nationally.

Additionally, Ratner, a married man, said in the video that, “I needed a place to go every day so I didn’t get murdered.”

Smithland Supply is an Agway dealer like Dave’s Soda and Pet City.

Ratner said the company agreed to retain the approximately 130 employees at the five locations.

“They took every single person, to a man,” he said. “For me, it’s a huge deal.”

Ratner said that employees are “how you compete with the big guys.”

He also said that when he meets his maker, he wants to hear that he treated his employees well.

Ratner said that Smithland Supply is interested in learning the pet business. And he said it will give his employees a chance for professional growth.

“This is a phenomenal opportunity for all my employees to show them what they have,” said Ratner, in the video. “They (Smithland Supply) want to grow, and they’re starved for talent.”

He also said that Smithland Supply wants to open about 30 stores in New England.

In terms of what he’s been proud of from his retail career, in the video Ratner noted he’s lost track of the number of times he has visited schools for career days to talk about starting a business, and getting to be a guiding light for kids

“What could be cooler than that?” he said.

Ratner also choked up briefly in the video when saying it was an honor for people to trust him with “the health of your real significant other.”

On Thursday, Ratner spoke about getting to give hundreds, if not thousands, of first jobs to kids.

“You’re giving someone a chance,” he said.

Ratner also has a love for small business advocacy, and he has testified before Congress numerous times.

“I’m like a C-SPAN star,” he said.

As for how long he intends to stay on in Agawam, Ratner, 67, joked in the video that, “I’m going to be in Agawam for probably another 44 years.”

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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