By Paula Sparrow
Charlie Metzger is a man determined to be humble. “Just so it’s clear,” he says, “it’s not me who’s helping out the animal rescue community, it’s Metzger’s Country Store and all of us—my brother and sister-in-law and my wife—who own it. Without all of us in agreement, it wouldn’t happen.”
That may be true, but everyone knows it’s Metzger who makes things happen. Metzger has become something of a hero in the community of Simpsonville—he’s the go-to guy when it comes to helping the rescue groups of Shelby County. The store, which carries a large selection of animal feed, tack, and gifts, has been in business for nine years, and has been helping homeless animals for the past five years.
But it almost didn’t happen.
“My wife, Susan, and I were at a trade show where we heard a woman talking about her own store where she sold small animals. We thought about doing that ourselves; it sounded like there could be a great profit margin,” explains Metzger.
“So we started talking to some of our customers, asking where we could get small animals, and how to find reputable breeders.”
Metzger did not expect the answer: His customers said if Metzger started selling animals, they would stop shopping at his store. They then told Metzger about the abundance of homeless animals in the county.
“I admit, it was news to me that there were so many needy animals out there. I was oblivious before, and now I was being educated—helping the homeless was the right thing to do,” Metzger says.
He started with just a few cages in the store holding dogs and cats from the Shelby Humane Society and the Woodstock Animal Foundation. Before long, he built an addition to the store, creating something of a mini-shelter. Bright and clean, the shelter bustles with volunteers—to whom Metzger gives full credit for the store’s successful adoption rates—taking care of the animals and creating an inviting environment for people.
Those profit margins Metzger had once dreamed of were gone, but it didn’t matter. It became Metzger’s mission to help all the animals he could. Bringing all the local rescue groups together was key. “One thing we’ve been able to do is be a facilitator among the animal groups—we’re most proud of that,” he says. “We can bring these people together, exchange ideas, work together, and concentrate on what we all agree on, like being no-kill and promoting spay/neuter. “I try to be the person you can bounce ideas off of, share things. My goal is peace on Earth and goodwill toward animals.”
Metzger and Metzger’s Country Store have gotten the whole county involved with various events and fundraisers, including the largest one—a Valentine’s Day dance known as Monarchs, Mutts, and Meows, held at Claudia Sanders Dinner House. Donations of $2,000 to $3,000 are dispersed to major Shelby County rescue groups: Shelby County No Kill Mission, Shelby Humane Society, Woodstock Animal Foundation, Operation CatSnip, and Tyson’s Chance Animal Foundation.
While many groups benefit from Metzger’s compassion for the animals, it is perhaps Woodstock that has been the most outspoken on Metzger’s behalf. “Shelby County is very lucky to have a family-owned and operated business that is so very compassionate about animal welfare [and] that serves our community with a personal touch,” says Denise Jones, founder of Woodstock. “There is never a moment where someone working at the store is not educating, consoling, referring, or providing help for people with their pets.”
Peggy Beard, a volunteer with Woodstock, agrees. “Words cannot describe the role that the Metzger family and store employees have played in assisting people with their pets,” Beard says. “The adoption site at the store has helped find homes for hundreds of unwanted, stray, or abandoned pets. The best part, though, is to see the look on Metzger’s face when those adopted pets come back to visit. It is very emotional and truly priceless.”
Five years and 500 adopted animals later, Metzger still tears up when he talks about the store’s first adoption, a neglected dog named Iyvan, and recalls the many dogs and cats who have touched his heart over the years. But he’s greatly appreciative of what has been accomplished at his store.
“People tell us time and time again they appreciate what the store is doing for the animals. It makes you feel better, knowing that people do appreciate that.”
Visit MetzgersCountryStore.com for more information.