Jean McGhee has loved animals all her life. Though she started her sales career peddling everything from electric motors to mosquito systems, her passion for pets never left this native Memphian’s mind. So when she and her husband, Shawn, got the chance to buy longtime Memphis animal feed and supply store, Hollywood Feed, in 2006, Jean knew she’d found her calling and her home away from home.
In nine years, Jean and Shawn have grown Hollywood Feed from three local stores to more than 40 retail locations in five states. Meanwhile, they’re raising a family of four kids ranging in age from 7 to 18, along with four dogs, two cats and a whole company of people who feel like extended family. Today, we’re excited to introduce her to you as our FACE of Memphis!
Tell us about your role as senior buyer with Hollywood Feed. What does a day in your work life look like?
No two days look the same for me at Hollywood Feed. Because I’m one of the owners, even though my title is senior buyer, I get involved in store design, human resources, warehouse management, new products, designing beds and many, many more areas of the company. Wherever I can best contribute is where I get involved.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in your work?
I have four kids at home, and like most working moms, I have a difficult time balancing a marriage, four kids of my own and a business — as well as many “adopted” kids that are grown, what I call my adult children at work. I’m one of the more senior people around Hollywood Feed, so I end up getting called in for all kinds of situations. Whether it’s personal or business, they call upon me. I find myself being a mom to many of the 20-somethings around.
What led you into your role as co-owner of Hollywood Feed?
Fate is what I like to say. Before my husband and I had our first date, he was warned that he’d better love my dog. I have always had a passion for pets, and I have to hold back from adopting every stray I see. My husband has always been in retail, and dogs and pets have always been my passion, so it’s really a miracle that we can have a job where we can work together, get along, and he’s able to use his expertise, and I’m able to do something that I love. We’re both passionate about making a difference in the lives of needy animals every day and giving back to the communities in which we serve. We’re very involved in rescues in all 40 locations. We frequently hold microchip clinics and adoption events on Saturdays in our stores just to get awareness out, as well as hopefully getting homes for lots of animals in need.
What is your proudest moment so far, career-wise?
I love seeing the women in our company grow and succeed more so than they ever thought possible. And knowing that I’ve had a hand in their mentoring certainly makes me a proud mother.
You’re involved with the Humane Society of Memphis & Shelby County and with various other rescue organizations. Tell us more about that work and why giving back is important to you.
I think we have a rare opportunity to get the word out about lots of different rescues, whether it’s Streetdog, Tails of Hope or the Humane Society. They all do great work, and I think we have a rare opportunity to get involved and make a difference. And I think most homes are better that include a pet. So connecting people to the right pet for them is a great opportunity. At Hollywood Feed, we pride ourselves on selling products that help in the wellness of the pet so family pets will last closer to 20 years, as they should, rather than eight or 10. And hopefully these animals because of good nutrition, because of help with joints, they live longer, happier lives, and they’re able to be more mobile.
We’re all healthier, more positive people when we’re able to get outside and spend some time in God’s world and not in four walls with a roof over our heads. And I think dogs encourage us to do so. My dogs are always better behaved when I can take them on a run. Tens of thousands of pets are euthanized through no fault of their own. We at Hollywood Feed are very proud to be able to make a difference in the community and do something that’s also right for our company.
What would people be most surprised to learn about you?
I have a degree in physics.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in Memphis?
Absolutely a chef’s tasting meal at Felicia Suzanne’s that we were able to purchase at a recent Streetdog auction raising money for the Streetdog Foundation. We actually bought it two years in a row and have been able to go twice, and both times Felicia did an amazing job, and it was a win-win. We were able to give money to Streetdog and have a great meal with friends.
What’s the trip you keep talking about taking one day?
One day, when my kids are all grown, I want to go to Italy and go to cooking school … of course with my dogs.
What’s your best piece of advice for others?
God will not put more in front of you than you can handle.
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
Clearly, it would be my dogs. Also, running and wine.
Thanks a million to Jean for taking time out of her daily life of pet whispering, rescue facilitating and employee mentoring to talk to us here at StyleBlueprint! Also thanks to Emily Robbins for the great photos.