Cindy Samartino’s childhood dream came true when she received an unimaginable gift from her employers: her very own pet shop.
Nancy and Chris Guinn, the owners of Dog Krazy, gifted Samartino the Leesburg pet supply store after it led to long commute hours and became tiresome to handle alongside their six other store locations.
The Guinns initially considered closing the store, yet advice from a group of small business owners gave them a different idea.
“Somebody in my group said, 'Why don’t you gift it to somebody you love?'” said Nancy Guinn. “I looked at Chris and said, 'Oh my God, Cindy. She’s wanted to open a store since fifth grade.'”
We're making it easier for you to find stories that matter with our new newsletter — The 4Front. Sign up here and get news that is important for you to your inbox.
Samartino has loved animals ever since she was a kid.
"In fifth grade, you wrote down what you wanted to do when you grew up, and I wrote I wanted to open a pet store because my favorite thing to do every Saturday was to go to local pet store," said Samartino.
She first became involved with Dog Krazy, five years ago, when she persuaded the owners to give her a job. The Guinns had a strict rule of never hiring customers, yet Samartino was determined. After applying several times, Samartino convinced them to give her a chance to work part time at the store.
Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia local news, events and information
Dog Krazy later became Samartino’s full-time job, and eventually, when the Guinns expanded Dog Krazy to seven stores, she became the Leesburg store manager, even relocating to be closer to the store.
Sign up for our Breaking newsletter to get the most urgent news stories in your inbox.
On Oct. 18, the couple called Samartino to a meeting and offered her the Leesburg store as a gift.
“It blew my mind, took my breath away. I think we were all crying,” said Samartino. "I tell them every time, there’s no words, there’s not enough words that can be said to express what they are doing for me."
The couple will continue to mentor Samartino as she takes over the store Jan. 1. To make it her own she has chosen to rename it Wigglebutt & Whiskers, inspired by her two bulldogs and cats.