At Paws for Thought, the shop cats are in charge of advertising and marketing, and one of the shop dogs is the shop supervisor and the other is in charge of quality control.
"They’re hard workers," said Jessica Thompson, whom the animals only let pretend is the store owner but who really works for them.
Thompson, 33, was honoured on Thursday not just for running an eclectic pet-supply store in the North End but for her public outreach to get mainly cats spayed and neutered, in co-operation with the Winnipeg Humane Society and the city’s animal services.
Thompson was this year’s recipient of the Mayor’s Biz Award from the North End Business Improvement Zone (BIZ), handed out at the Metropolitan Entertainment Centre.
Each of the 16 BIZs in Winnipeg gave out one of the awards.
"There is a serious overpopulation problem but it is something that can be fixed by fixing cats," Thompson said, adding, "I love puns."
That explains some of the names of the "neuter days" she’s held at her pet shop, like Neuter-ama, or St. Cat-rick’s Neuter Day. Another was Not a Kitty’s Father Day. Huh? "We neuter them so they can’t be fathers," Thompson explained.
"The hope is to be helping the community and to not add another empty storefront to the North End," she said.
Her independent store, a rarity in today’s market dominated by pet-supply chains, is on Main Street and Burrows Avenue.
She knows people will drive by and not stop because it’s in the North End and she’s always trying to remedy that stigma.
"People come to this store and say it belongs in Osborne Village or the Exchange District or on Corydon," Thompson said. But she has lived in the North End the past dozen years and that’s where she wants it to be.
"There’s a sense of community here I haven’t experienced anywhere else," she said.
"There are people from all walks of life and there is no judgment. It’s a wonderful community."
People are also invited to drop in just to visit with the furry employees, or view the artwork adorning the walls by eight local artists. The spay and neuter service for pets of people on low incomes is just $10.
The annual Mayor’s BIZ Awards acknowledge the many contributions made to BIZ zones through marketing, special events and promotions, as well as local area beautification and safety.
"You contribute directly to (the city’s) growth," Mayor Brian Bowman told the audience.
"As well, you contribute through initiatives like neighbourhood beautification and cleanup, art projects, entertainment and educational programming, as well as philanthropy."
Recipients included Marli Sakiyama from the Academy Road BIZ; Lisa Tjaden, Corydon Avenue BIZ; Prairie Theatre Exchange, Downtown Winnipeg BIZ; Forth Projects Ltd., Exchange District BIZ; Karla Mozdzen, Norwood Grove BIZ; St. Mary’s Road United Church Food Bank, Old St. Vital BIZ; Jillian Zdunich, Osborne Village BIZ; Constance Menzies, Provencher Blvd. BIZ; 2018 St. James Village BIZ Green Team, St. James Village BIZ; Marilyn Firth, St. Norbert BIZ; Arthur (Fivie) Gunn, Selkirk Ave. BIZ; Chaeban Ice Cream, South Osborne BIZ; Bjorn Johnson, Transcona BIZ; Jennifer Diakiw Labuick, West Broadway BIZ; Sons of Italy, West End BIZ.
Almost 5,000 businesses are represented across 16 BIZs in Winnipeg. Each zone has its own mandate and mission statement, but all work toward enhancing their zone for business members.
The Downtown BIZ was established in 1989 as the first BIZ, while the St. Norbert BIZ is the most recent addition.
Bill Redekop has been covering rural issues since 2001.