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The Latest Stories By Philip Minaker

  • On becoming a Pet Shop Boy….
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  • Get your cardie on
  • To Russia with love
  • Sink or swim

Philip Minaker

Philip Minaker

Philip Minaker has been a regular contributor to since its inception in 2009.  Many of his pieces on fashion, style and pop culture for have also been reposted on numerous sites around the world. 

Being diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1983 (when it was literally a death sentence) he initially chose to keep it to himself and continued to forge an extensive career in the fashion industry. It was not until the death of his grandmother (the love of his life), also in 2009, that he became comfortable with the idea of coming out regarding his HIV status. “For me, it was yet another ordeal I had to learn to live with while I continued to hope for better days ahead. Like other unpredictable and disturbing events that had occurred in my life, I have done my best to not let it fully define or consume me. I have however, recognized it as a part of who I am and made the necessary concessions over the years in my efforts to live a fulfilling, productive and happy life.” Philip has now been “undetectable” for nearly ten years. 

He officially moved from Winnipeg to Toronto in 1990 and continues to make a life for himself, which is an ongoing work in progress. Recently, Philip chose to combine his professional and personal passions into the pet industry by forging a unique ambience and perspective in managing and buying for an independently owned full service pet shop, naturally, right in the heart of downtown Toronto. He is having the time of his life!


On becoming a Pet Shop Boy….

Tuesday, 18 March 2014 Written by // Philip Minaker - Style Categories // Pets, Lifestyle, Living with HIV, Philip Minaker

Philip Minaker changes career tracks. Guess what he’s doing now?

On becoming a Pet Shop Boy….

We all have our various “break throughs” or as Oprah puts it, our “Aha moments”, when we realize that there is a great need for change in our attitudes, perspective and in the ways in which we live our lives. Equipped with a new mandate we diligently work towards transforming our lives in a new direction. We relish the opportunity as a fresh start and begin to look forward rather than behind us as we strive to move forward rather than wallow in despair, frustration or even worse…bitterness. 

One of min, recently came to me through my frustration and disenchantment with the fashion industry that I had spent a major portion of my life forging a career within. As my specialty had been working with “Bridge Designers” that are basically moderately priced goods, I was reluctant to see this snack bracket dwindling away over the last five years. Despite the obvious signs of Canadian factories disappearing due to offshore competition and the rapid decline of the middle class I was certain my impressive and lengthy resume would enable me to continue to thrive in my niche category and survive the slump that would inevitably turn itself around. But no such luck! This last recessionary phase that continues to wait for the proverbial dust to settle is not returning the economy to what once was the norm. 

Unfortunately the fashion industry, like many others, has chosen to rebuild their bottom lines at the risk of losing their integrity and tarnishing their image only to put an innocent “spin” on events that do make the headlines. Case in point: Last year over 1,100 Bangladeshi workers were killed while working in a garment factory that collapsed. Many of these third world factories lock their employees into the premises for fear of internal theft that overrides their workers basic safety rights. When a fire or other unexpected crisis occurs these people have no way to escape. Sadly they just become added to the growing numbers of those that have already perished, all for the sake of curbing costs fueled by competition and consumer demand. How can anyone wear garments that are created at such a great cost? 

Frustrated I began to broaden my most recent job search to include other retail opportunities outside of the fashion arena. With a lengthy background in window dressing and visual artistry in several other factions I was confidant I would be able to land a job, if not new career, working with products that I could endorse and wholeheartedly stand behind. While continuing to enjoy my life-long pleasure of accommodating the needs of the consumers who crossed my path and in the process creating clients out of customers I knew I would find an opportunity that would continue to build upon my skill set. 

As we have become more and more aware of what we purchase and chose to incorporate into our lives so too have we become conscientious as to what we purchase for our pets and for their wellbeing as well. Six months ago I never would have imagined that I would be managing and buying for a pet shop but in all honesty I am actually loving it! 

My prior jobs have been solely based on brands rather than including culture and environment into the scheme of things, which is a norm in the fashion business. I have chosen to adapt or run for the hills but mostly forge relationships with my clientele that has overruled the politics I have inadvertently found myself at times, knee deep in. It has always been my forte to bond with the clientele and be their link to satisfying their wants, needs and desires. My new job includes working with an owner who is straightforward and from the get go, open and honest, especially about the trials and tribulations he has endured with a ten-year run of owning a multi-faceted pet shop. 

Besides the retail component of the shop there is also boarding, daycare and grooming services to schedule, manage and integrate into the day-to-day activities. The shop was also in need of some major T.L.C. and I dove right into my acquired bag of tricks to brighten and reorganize the shop.

My experiences of growing up on a farm and having a wide variety of pets throughout my life had me equipped for relating to customers whose pets are apart of their own families. I also had to pour myself extensively into product knowledge to better grasp my newfound challenges of moving into a new commodity that has a strong competitive nature onto itself. has been an excellent go to source and I suggest it to all of those that want to research and better understand the various products available for their pet’s consumption and well being. It is one of the few sites that are totally objective and covers virtually ever brand available in North America. I even have a binder at the shop that features all the brands we carry in it as a source for customers to verify the credibility of the ones we carry. God only knows how many people have already been told what they should and shouldn’t feed their much-loved pets! 

Who knew peanut butter, pumpkin, yoghurt and fish oil can also add to the welfare and constitution of dogs and cats? During my TV viewing I came across a brand called “Dog for Dog” that features organic peanut butter, granola bars and treats that donates an item for everyone sold to a local shelter. Snoop Dogg, Chelsea Handler and Michael Buble are their celebrity spokesperson and since they do not advertise they can graciously donate products to animals truly in need. Despite being a global organization IFAW zeroes in on helping dogs that maybe abused or neglected in Ontario through teaching better care, free spaying or neutering and in adoption services. We are thrilled to have this product line in the shop that compliments the generosity already extended by the owner to the local Humane Society and a local Feral Cat organization. 

We are also big on giving out samples even though we have a policy that enables customers to return products if their pets don’t take to them. Most of the brands have a return policy that makes this all the more possible for customers to experiment with a finicky pet until they find a suitable product that hits home. Cats seem to be more of an issue than dogs but then history and years can factor into the equation regarding both species. The reps write off the returns allowing us to use them for samples and work towards increasing their clientele base in the process. 

With an organic/holistic approach to food and treats we strive to provide products that add to the longevity and happiness of pets lives. Sourcing out new products and with a bevy of sales reps this takes added research and diligence. Thankfully, clients are also keen on suggesting products that they have come across in their travels that their pets and consciences are happy with purchasing. Products range from raw, wet and to dry alternatives that creates a diverse range to integrate into the shop’s roster. Filling the gaps between the various products has become a special focus that is a personal mission of mine to compliment the shop’s diverse clientele and varied demographic. 

The retail component of the shop also features a great selection of necessities and toys for dogs and cats other than just food and treats. There are a limited but credible variety of products for fish, rabbits and other furry critters that also compliments the Shop’s name, “Pet Cuisine & Accessories”. 

Located right downtown in Toronto, just east of Yonge Street at 127 Front Street East, thesShop is in a neighborhood that ranges from co-operative housing to luxurious condominiums. It is a unique and enjoyable opportunity for me to work with such a wide spectrum of customers that come from all walks of life. 

Since we also have boarding and grooming services, clients come from across the Greater Toronto Area as well. There is a regular array of pets that have become attached to me with their own distinct personalities and characteristics. We also have two in-house cats (George & Theo) that were abandoned as kittens and have spent the last four years as our resident mascots. They are also loved by many of our regular clients who make it a point to spend time with them. The resident groomers are artisans in their own rights as they transform scruffy pets into picture perfect creations. Each has their own specialty and it always amazes me to see the results of their talented work. 

There is never a dull moment and if and when tensions do arise, a well-earned break into the daycare room to play with a handful of dogs can be an incredibly uplifting and somewhat therapeutic experience that is always a source of joy. After having to navigate my way through a mine field of overblown ego’s within the fashion industry, I am delighted to put a fresh slant on my acquired skills as I begin a rewarding career within the Pet Industry with like minded individuals who have a penchant for Pets who bring us so much joy and comfort. Quite an “Aha Moment” for this new Pet Shop Boy!