Join the Gang

From Insurance Agent Extraordinaire to Pet Entrepreneur

Photos by Shannon Phillips

After stepping in as owner of six of Savannah’s beloved Woof Gang stores, David Pence, along with his wife, Michelle, are raising the roof on the pet industry.

When you think of two industries that could not be more different, insurance and pet lifestyle are right up there with the rest. You probably wouldn’t put an insurance agent extraordinaire into a pet shop and expect them to thrive, and vice versa.

Well, David Pence, insurance agent of 30 years and business owner, did just that. After three decades in the insurance industry, David decided to try his hand at steering the ship of locally loved Savannah pet stores: Woof Gang Bakeries.

“Insurance is a great industry all about protecting people and being there when they need you the most, but ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s not something you go home about like, ‘Wow, that was really fun today,’” said David. “The dog business is just the opposite. It’s a business that’s totally built around joy. Regardless of politics, regardless of what’s going on in their lives, everybody — when you come into our stores, everybody is just having a great time.” He’s taking his first day off since taking the helm at six Woof Gang locations early this spring.

Thankfully, David has not had to handle the transition on his own. His wife, Michelle, is able to pick up where David leaves off. “I’d say we make a great team,” Michelle confirmed. “He brings more of the business side, and I bring more of the creative aspects, like product selection.” As a life-long dog owner, Michelle knows how important quality products — natural, organic food and treats, safe toys, etc. — are to loving pet owners.

Michelle and 14-year-old Lucy are two of the smiling faces that will greet you at the door of Woof Gang on your next visit.

David described his remarkable partnership with his wife. “For us, we are absolutely best friends. We can spend all of that time together and it doesn’t seem like it. Our chemistry just works — that’s why we’re together. My strengths and her strengths combined in this type of environment work exceptionally well because we each have our talents.”

If you aren’t familiar with Woof Gang, it is the type of pet store where the associates know each pet by name (and maybe sneak them a treat or two). It is definitely not a big-box store — it’s where you get beautifully decorated, pet-friendly cupcakes for their birthday, or handmade collars, organic shampoos, safe and durable (and cute) toys, and human-grade food you can trust. It’s where your pet feels comfortable getting groomed and leaves with a festive scarf as a badge of honor.

“We are locally and veteran owned, and we are small-business people,” explained David. “We understand the market and we understand that pets are part of your family — they’re not just pets, and we treat them like they’re our own, too.”

It’s also the place to find impromptu puppy parties! David tells a story about how recently, at the City Market store, five different customers walked in at about the same time, all with French bulldogs. “The pet parents were all talking together and the Frenchies were meeting each other in the middle of the room. And for me — it just cracked me up.”

In all, Woof Gang is still the same store Savannahians know, love and trust. David insisted, “At the end of the day, regardless of what your product is, people have an expectation of how they are going to be treated when they deal with your company and your people. The reason we were so successful in the insurance industry for over 30 years is that we always try to be the best insurance agency a person could possibly have. And we are implementing that in Woof Gang. We’re constantly talking about how we can make this the best experience for anyone that walks through the door.”

With its colorful decor and decorative dog treats, Woof Gang Bakery is sure to catch your eye (or the eye of your pup) as you walk down the street!

“We plan on keeping the tradition that our CEO, Paul Allen, has started,” shared David. Woof Gang is solid in its foundation but is looking to grow. “The sky’s the limit with what we can accomplish in this industry. When you combine a fantastic customer base, a joyful environment and one of the fastest growing industries in the country, it is just a great opportunity. That’s what excites us every day.” Specifically, Woof Gang is ramping up their grooming services and have already added eight new groomers to the fleet; they are also planning on adding another shift to accommodate more pets during the day. In the future, the Pences hope to grow into new markets — wherever their joyful journey takes them.

They urge, “If you’ve used Woof Gang at some time in the past or visited the stores, try us again. It is our commitment to build our reputation on becoming the first choice for pet care and products. We strive every day to improve the customer and pet experience. We may never have everything perfect but striving for perfection is our commitment.” In other words, nothing but the best for your furry friend!

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