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A Pet Project : Phil Carter thought the Tarzana store would prove a quiet business for his golden years. But the Red Barn is anything but sedate.

September 10, 1993|GERI COOK

When pet lovers choose a source of food and supplies for their furry and feathered compan ions, they make sure of one basic requirement. That source must care about animals and know their needs and how to meet them.

When you walk into the Red Barn Feed & Saddlery operation in Tarzana, it doesn't take but a minute or two to grasp that there's something special here. Lines jam the checkout counter and, although the scene is slightly chaotic, everyone's in a happy mood. It's obvious that most of the customers have been coming here a long time. The clerks know their customers' names--and those of their pets.

Owner Phil Carter, a former teacher and social worker, bought Red Barn about 10 years ago. An animal lover, he thought that it would be a nice, quiet business for his golden years. But Carter's enthusiasm, merchandising expertise and soft heart keep this place jumping all the time.

Three buildings house all kinds of supplies for dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, horses, cows, sheep--even Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs.

Most pet stores do not carry the same brands you find in the supermarket, and vice versa. My marmalade cat, Rosie, won't eat anything but Fancy Feast, and pet stores don't carry it. Sadie, my golden Lab mix, is on Science Diet Lite, and supermarkets don't carry that. So unless I go to Red Barn, I make two stops just to purchase pet food. Red Barn carries it all and at prices that beat them all. Fancy Feast is 39 cents a can here; at the market, it's 49 cents. Red Barn's price for a 20-pound bag of Science Diet Lite is $15.95, opposed to $18.99 at a chain pet store.

According to Carter, Nutro-Max is the local bestseller among dry dog foods. At a major pet discount store, it's $28.99 for the 40-pound bag, but Red Barn's everyday price is $23.50. Kal-Kan, a popular canned dog food that pet stores don't carry, runs 99 cents at Ralphs, 89 cents at Vons; it's 85 cents here.

Outside the front door are the bargain brands of kibble. Carter says that although he won't sell "junk" food, he is acutely aware of those folks who love their dogs but are on very limited incomes, and suggests Blue Ribbon dry kibble at $8.95 for a 40-pound bag.

Bird lovers who just want to feed wild birds can buy a 50-pound bag of seed mix for $9.25; often, it's on special (for $7), as are many of the products here. Red Barn's weekly newspaper ads offer coupons that bargain shoppers use for additional savings.

Delivery in the San Fernando Valley is $7, but Carter has been known to lower that for senior citizens and shut-ins. The third Saturday of each month is bargain vaccine day, when Pet Vaccine Systems comes by between 3:30 and 5 p.m. and inoculates dogs and cats at about half the cost that most veterinarians charge. A rabies shot, for example, is $5.

Personnel at Red Barn Feed & Saddlery are all very knowledgeable and if they can't answer your questions, Carter probably can.

Geri Cook's Bargains column runs every Friday in Valley Life. Questions about shopping may be sent to her, in care of Valley Life, Los Angeles Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth 91311. Letters will not be answered individually, but topics of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Geri Cook can be heard from 11 a.m. to noon Saturdays on KIEV 870-AM.


* What: Red Barn Feed & Saddlery.

* Location: 18601 Oxnard St., Tarzana.

* Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.

* Cards: MasterCard, Visa.

* Call: (818) 345-2510.

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