Monday, July 3, 2017

This Conversation is Going to the Dogs and Cats Via An Interview With Kevin MacKenzie Founder of Pet Store In a Box

Blinds in a box, underwear in a box, dresses coats, you name it people are getting it in a box, there is even a bunch of food companies selling guess what, meals in a box.

So why not do the same for pets. Yep pets, Kevin MacKenzie, author and award winning Customer Service and Sales rep with many years of experience in the pet industry has come up with the unique idea to place premium products in a box. Each box has, treats, toys and other things in it, and what is interesting is that the box contains the items based on the pet’s size and other attributes. Kevin joins us for a Candid Conversation about the Pet Shop in a Box.

Kevin welcome to Candid Conversations

Cliff T.: Pet Store in a Box, why, what was or is the motivation behind this venture?

Kevin M.: Thanks for the opportunity to talk to you and your readers about my story. It has been said if you can find something you love and do it as a job you will never work a day in your life. As I child I always wanted to see different pet stores. Then at age 15 I got my dream job where I worked in a retail pet store for over 10 years and loved every second of it.

After that I worked for a larger manufacturer and distributor of pet supplies. My new customers were the same stores I loved to visit as a young boy. I was there for 17 years and loved helping pets and owners alike. I always enjoyed teaching pet owners and training the staff at the pet stores who would take my knowledge and pass it along to pet owners and their pets. In a very small way I've likely helped in the care of over one million pets!

In 2013 I left the pet industry but it still remained in my heart. I wrote a book on motivation called 123 Ways to Get Motivated AND Stay Motivated available on Amazon in August 2016 and soon started my second book on sales shortly after. It was then that I had a eureka moment during the second chapter and I came up with Pet Store In a Box.

Cliff T.: How long did it take to develop the program?

Kevin M.: The idea came flooding in at me really. I started thinking about all my observations during my almost 30 years in the pet industry. I wanted pet owners to spend more time playing with their pet and less time shopping for their pet.

We all lead busy lives and pet owners are no different. Many pets are left at home for extended periods of time and get bored with the same toys for weeks or months. Sometimes pet owners don't think about the type of toys, treats or accessories that is best for their cat or dog. You won't get that kind of experience and advice at a big box store where the employee in the pet section was just working in the paint department earlier in the day.

During the check out process at Pet Store In a Box you are asked a few questions to learn about your pet. This way we have literally dozens of combinations of boxes. We factor in your pets size - from a tiny ‘tea cup’ puppy to a giant 100+ pound one, then there is the pets age - puppy / kitten to senior pets, how aggressive of a chewer your pet is from cuddler to very aggressive chewer and so on.

Cliff T.: Were there any challenges when you started to build this project? And if so what were the ways you overcame them?

Kevin M.: Getting people to understand the concept for some was a challenge especially for the older generation. Once I described it as a monthly subscription (think magazine delivered once a month to your home) but for pet supplies most people got it.

Cliff T.: Kevin even as I sit here asking these questions I have to smile, I think this is so uniquely interesting. That said pets and they’re owners can be quite picky. How do you go about ensuring the best possible result with respect to Pet Store in a Box?

Kevin M.: As mentioned we take not just the pet into consideration but also the time of year. We consider seasonal times as well. Take for instance this month’s shipment for dogs. We sent out portable water bottles that have a small dish attached. Perfect for when your pet needs a drink in the heat.

Our customer’s pets are unique and we think their box should be as unique as they are. No cookie cutter approach here.

Cliff T.: OK, so this is a subscription service, typically how long does a customer subscribe for?

Kevin M.: We have month to month boxes if someone wants to just try us out but our annual subscriptions are by far the most popular because of the extra savings and free shipping (within Canada).
Cliff T.: Can the customer keep ordering the same things in the box or can they change what comes in the box each month?

Kevin M.: Once the customer places the order we take it from there unless they wish to change a particular variable during the subscription timeworn example, if your pet moves from an aggressive chewer to a light chewer or from adult cat to a senior cat. We are here to help so just ask.

Cliff T.: There is no peace treaty in the box, can you explain that and the philosophy of the pet comes first?

Kevin M.: We offer so much variety to our customers. We have single cat boxes, multi-cat cat boxes, single dog boxes, muti-dog boxes, boxes for one cat and one dog and what we the menagerie box for homes with at least two dogs and two cats. If you have cats and dogs in the same house you just might need a peace treaty.

As a kid we had a Siamese cat and a English Bulldog and most days a peace treaty was necessary.

If you hold a two different pet treats or toys in your hand and your pet loves one over the other what one are you buying? Price at that point often isn't even considered because you want what is best for the pet and what the pet wants. That's why the customer isn't first, the pet is. That's the way it should be. The bottom line is we care that much about your pet.

Cliff T.: Kevin can you give our readers an idea of the size of the box and what kind of things they may see when they open it?

Kevin M. Due to the various products for both cats and dogs we aim to have 6-8 premium pet treats, toys and accessories each and every month. Some months might have three toys and others only one where you might get four treats one month and two the next.

What will remain the same each month and for all dogs and cats is the value in each box. You will be saving money versus what you pay in the stores plus you save gas and time going and there is the most priceless thing: more time to play with your pet.

You might say we ship purrs and tail wags every month!

Cliff T.: 28 years in the business, you really love your job, but I also sense that you love animals too. Is this what really drives you to do this kind of work?

Kevin M.: Absolutely! I wouldn't have it any other way. That's why my level of care comes out in every single box we ship. Your pet isn't like your family, it IS your family.

Cliff T.: I also noticed that your partnering with other organizations like the SPCA. What is the connection to them?

Kevin M.: We are proud to donate a percentage of proceeds from each and every box to our local humane society. It's important to us that we give back.

Cliff T.: It is obvious that you’re a pet lover, do you have pets?

Kevin M.: I've had everything from goldfish to alligators but currently we only have one fish. My youngest son is allergic to cats and my wife, ironically, isn't a dog person.

Cliff T.: What is the most important message you want to offer or get out regarding the care of animals?

Kevin M.: Pets need variety and high quality pet treats, toys and accessories please consider a subscription from Pet Store In a Box. It's a great gift for pets and the people who love them.

Finally, summer is here. Please do not leave your pet in a car alone, not even for a second.

Cliff T.: Kevin thanks very much for sharing your story and passion for pets with me and the readers of Candid Conversations.

Kevin M.: It has been my pleasure. Thanks again.

Kevin Mackenzie founder of Pet Shop in a Box joined us from Courtice ON, check out them out on the web at

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

LindaAnn Is Back - Come Up And Read Her Candid Conversation

Look who is back for a SECOND Candid Conversation: LindaAnn Loschiavo. Remember she did an interview with us about Mae West and her work. Of course, LindaAnn has other projects she is working on --- like a documentary. That is where we begin this edition of Candid Conversations. LindaAnn, welcome back to Candid Conversations.

LindaAnn L.: Always a great pleasure, Cliff, and thank you for the opportunity.

Cliff T.: A documentary sounds interesting. Please do share with us what or whom it’s about?

LindaAnn L.: Born in Waco, Texas, Mary Louise “Texas” Guinan [1884-1933] moved to Greenwich Village in 1907 and found a neighborhood that suited her temperament. Within a few years, she had relocated her entire family to New York City. She is an extraordinary, amazing and versatile woman. She was a star of Western movies during the silent era, doing her own stunts in dozens of flickers; a Broadway star; a film actress for Warner Bros. (when “talkies” became the new Hollywood standard); and also the most famous speakeasy hostess during the Prohibition Era. During the 1920s, her salary was $750,000 for ten months of work a year. My blog can offer more details: 

Cliff T.: What prompted the interest in Greenwich Village?

LindaAnn L.: In 1907, Texas Guinan either moved to Washington Square South because she heard it was the center of “bohemia” or she settled here because she was, at the time, still a struggling actress who needed to find cut-rate boarding house. As she earned more money, she moved to 17 West 8th Street and lived there until her death (November 1933). Her parents shared the same address; her brother Tommy Guinan and many of her under-age showgirls lived directly across the street. Since I live around the corner, I pass her former residence often.

Cliff T.: Wow that is so cool. Are you at the beginning stages of the documentary? What will be the focus for this doc?

LindaAnn L.: We’re in “production” and have completed all the interviews except for one: her blood relative who lives in a remote area of Idaho. As soon as the Idaho interview has been filmed, this project will move into its “editing” and “post production” phase. 

The documentary’s focus is on her unusual life as an “Alpha female” maverick in everything she did. For example, when she entered the silent film industry, all protagonists were male and hero roles went to actors like William S. Hart. [William Surrey Hart (1864 – 1946), an American silent film actor, screenwriter, director and producer, is remembered as a foremost Western star of the silent era]. If any females did appear onscreen, invariably they were victims who needed to be rescued. Texas Guinan, with her superb trick riding and ability to shoot and do dangerous stunts, turned everything around; soon scripts were written for her (i.e., “The Gun Woman”). She became the star as well as the courageous, capable heroine who saved the day.

Cliff T.: To say that you have your hands full is an understatement. How are you managing this plus doing the other things like maintaining the Mae West blog?

LindaAnn L.: In order to have a fulfilling writing life, you need discipline and a determination to make time for the blank page. In addition to doing my second documentary film on Texas Guinan and writing a daily blog, in this year alone (2017), I have also had four new short stories published, numerous poems [Mused, Spring 2017 issue just published three of my poems, for instance] and I’ve also written stage reviews, two essays, and I have starred in someone else’s NYC film. One of my recently printed essays, adapted from a podcast interview I did in 2015, was about my experience writing my first stage play at age 9 -- then directing, casting, and producing the play at age 10 in NYC, where it ran for several months.

It also helps that I have never owned a TV set. I’m not a “couch potato” who spends the evening watching someone else’s life instead of getting on with my own dreams.

Cliff T.: That is awesome, speaking of the Mae West blog, how do manage to keep the blog fresh? AKA the secret in the sauce that keeps an audience coming back, what would that be?

LindaAnn L.: It’s no question that, after doing my Mae West Blog – – for 12 ½ years, posting daily becomes more difficult because I’m always seeking fresh, unique content. For instance, Louisa, a Mae-maven, made a special request. Louisa had never seen an article on Elvis Presley and Mae, even though The King of Rock & amp; Roll visited Mae in Los Angeles with actor Nick Adams to ask her to appear in his next motion picture, “Roustabout.” In a rare out-of-print magazine, I managed to find an account of that visit, thereby delighting numerous Elvis fans. Additionally, I discovered a long out-of-print article, analyzing Mae’s motion pictures. I excerpted this “lost” article for my Mae West Blog from January 3rd, 2017 – May 23rd, 2017, dividing the text into 92 segments. Cliff, you can tell how in-depth that “lost” article must have been when it took 92 posts to reprint it!

Cliff T.: Yes that does sonund  like a challenge, the reason I ask is that Mae West and her contemporaries are no longer with us, thus keeping fresh perspectives would be a challenge, or do you think otherwise?

LindaAnn L.: Mae West fought to put homosexuals and drag queens on Broadway in her 1927 play “The Drag.” However, that play did not run on The Great White Way because City Hall sent her to jail instead. She also fought to get black actors on Broadway by writing a daring bi-racial play in 1930 “The Constant Sinner.” When some black actors were threatened with lynching, the Shubert brothers hired white actors to play those roles in blackface. Always ahead of her time, Mae West’s civil rights battles and her insistence on diversity have kept her ideas contemporary and attractive to younger generations. The most remarkable news item I read yesterday is that a Utah theatre company is going out on a limb to revive “The Drag” in their next season. This is a daring decision in Utah, where only family friendly plays are staged. Frankly, I don’t know if the Utah county politicians will permit this production to occur, Cliff, but I have my fingers crossed. 

Cliff T.: Best of luck with that.  What is the most common feedback you get from people when they log on to the site?

LindaAnn L.: Regarding “the most common feedback,” I have two replies. First, the relatives of individuals named on the site will either ask for more information or say thanks for remembering this loved one. Second, fans will ask for book recommendations --- since many Mae West biographies have been published.

Cliff T.: LindaAnn, getting back to Greenwich Village, when do you expect to have the documentary done?

LindaAnn L.: If my film partner goes to Idaho this summer for that one final interview, we can start editing and finish this year. After that, we’d submit it to documentary film festivals. 

Cliff T.: Excellent, we will have to do a 3rd Candid Conversation when it comes out.

LindaAnn L.: That would be lovely. Certainly a few links and a trailer would be on You Tube, so your readers can meet Texas Guinan.  

Cliff T.: Thanks again for dropping in to do another Candid Conversation.

LindaAnn L.: Thank you, Cliff, for being a steadfast chronicler of artistic ventures. 

LindaAnn Loschiavo, blogger, dramatist, author, and now documentary filmmaker wrote to us from Greenwich Village, N.Y.

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Second Candd Conversation: The BRICK Paul Brechbuhler

My next interview is a revisit with a good friend and amateur boxer Paul Brechbuhler. Paul has put a lot of hard work into becoming a boxer, but unlike most boxers he is a bit older and this is what makes him a unique fighter.

Sadly last December his competition days were ended due to a KO in Hamilton Ontario. However that has not caused Paul known as the Brick to walk away from the ring, instead he is taking back his boxing desire and using it in a different way. I am happy to have him share that with us here on Candid Conversations. Paul welcome back and thanks for talking about what must be a tough moment for you.

Paul B.: Thank you for having me as part of Candid Conversations.

Cliff T.: From what I hear you went to do another bout, the Golden Gloves, on arrival you found out that you were not allowed to box and that you would not be allowed to compete at all in future events, devastating, shocking I am sure. That said what made you decide not to walk away from the sport?

Paul B.: As any athlete will tell you, when you love a sport so much, it is hard to leave. Especially when a third party is forcing you to do so.

Cliff T.: You have been boxing for a number of years, how many and how often were you competing?

Paul B.: I boxed when I was younger, but more recently I have been boxing for five years. About twice a year in competitive bouts.

Cliff T.: What was the coach’s reaction when he found out you were no longer allowed to compete?

Paul B.: He actually wanted me to keep training. Which I thought was rather odd.

Cliff T.: To say that it was like being KO’d again would be an understatement. Yet you are back boxing, what is the driving force here, and what do you want to accomplish outside of competition?

Paul B.: It is the warrior spirit. You know, once a fighter, always a fighter. If I can’t compete, I want to help others with the sport. Such as coaching or being an official.

Cliff T.: Do you have any comment or feedback you want to share with officials who were at the Golden Gloves event?

Paul B.: They should have told me that I did not qualify back in December, not on Golden Gloves day. I had put a lot of time and effort into training for that tournament. Not to mention almost $400 in fees and other expenses that I will likely not be able to get back.

Cliff T.: Looking ahead where do you see yourself in the boxing world In the future?

Paul B.: I don’t plan on leaving the sport for a while. I will be going for my referee’s license this summer, and will possibly look at coaching next year. I can also still do some demonstrations and exhibitions in the ring, albeit not full contact. Also, my community TV station. Metropolis TV, will continue to cover local boxing events, and we are also in the process of producing a documentary about the sport. In July 2017, I will be doing the ‘Another Brick In the Sprawl’ tour to promote Over 40 boxing through demonstrations and meet-ups. So far, Ottawa, Montreal, New York (City), and Chicago are on the list of cities I will be visiting. If it goes well, I may do it every year in different cities throughout North America.

Cliff T.: That is interesting. What is the message you want to send to officials and to those who want to be a boxer, especially those who are more mature in age?

Paul B.: I will always keep promoting boxing for older people. It is a great sport to get into as an older person. It was an unfortunate event that happened to me, and there is a long story behind it. This should not discourage anyone from getting into boxing at an older age. Knockouts are rare in amateur boxing, especially in the Over 40 division. I know a boxer who is 62, and can probably kick most of your butts. My being knocked out and subsequently banned from competition was due to an error by the officials who put me in the wrong division back in December. My opponent was too young and in a higher weight class. A rare mistake. The ban was due to the fact that in Ontario, our public healthcare does not cover injuries incurred from boxing, so I became a high-risk and could not be covered by the sanctioning oganization’s private policy. Even though I was cleared by a medical professional to be safe to box again. None of this is likely to happen again, and especially outside the province of Ontario, where boxing is generally covered by provincial heath plans.

Cliff T.: Paul would you say that boxing is more a young persons sport or do you disagree with that and why?

Paul B.: Boxing used to be a young person’s sport, but the number of participants in the Over 40 class has been increasing over the past few years. As I mentioned earlier, boxing is great for anyone. Boxing is a great exercise that works every muscle group and even helps to control high blood pressure, a condition common in older people.

Cliff T.: Paul it’s certainly been an interesting time for you. I have to say I am impressed by how you have handled this situation. We all know that kids are watching what adults do. What is the message you have for the younger boxer today?

Paul B.: Keep at it. Do your best, and give it your all. Listen to your coach, and take your training seriously.

Cliff T.: Paul once again thank you for taking time to chat about what is happening in your world re boxing. Much appreciated.

Paul B.: Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to be part of your blog.
Paul Brechbuhler, aka the BRICK a boxer in transition from competition to a new venture in boxing joined me in a Candid Conversation from Toronto Canada.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Candid Conversations Presents Ragan Whiteside

In a world where music seems to sound the same it's nice to see that other genres are still being pursued. More interesting to see is the talent pool that is out there take for example the world of Jazz, it's still evolving and many people are jumping into learn and develop new music in this very diverse universe called Jazz, from the blues to contemporary Jazz artists are moving the music into new directions and creating new sounds for audiences to enjoy.

I am pleased to have found one such artist, Ragan Whiteside, she is set to release her newest album called Treblemaker. She joins me today for a Candid Conversation about the album and her music.

Cliff T.: Ragan thanks for taking some time out to do a Candid Conversation.

Ragan W.: Thank you so much for having me!

Cliff T.: Treblemaker, interesting name for an album, is there a theme behind this title or is this album featuring music that has a strong emphasis on Treble?

Ragan W.: I wish I could say it’s related to a theme, but really it was just a cool pun. :) Although I am a flautist, I am all about the bass.

Cliff T.: I have to admit I am a drum kind of guy myself but bass does move me too. Is the flute the centerpiece instrument?

Ragan W.: Yes, the flute is definitely the centerpiece, with a few guests joining throughout the album with various instruments: Tom Browne (trumpet), Marion Meadows (sax), Kim Waters (sax), Frank McComb (keys and vocals), The PR Experience (Marvin Pryor – trombone, Nelson Render – trumpet, Travis Kimber – sax), Rich Harrison (drums), Jorel “JFly” Flynn (drums), Derek Scott (guitar), and Phil Casagrande (keys).

Cliff T.: In the press release it is mentioned that your music is intended to shake up perceptions of what a flute and Jazz artist can do, can you give us a sense of what perceptions you see need to be changed?

Ragan W.: There is a general perception that flute is a soft, flowery, background instrument. While it can be that, the flute can also be very percussive and funky. I always set out to show that the flute can be a mainstream instrument, just like sax and guitar.

Cliff T.: Ragan, you’re no stranger to the scene, this is your fourth album, what do you think sets Treblemaker apart from your earlier work?

Ragan W.: When we started working on this album, we set the intention of creating songs that focused on making people feel good. That type of focus really opened us up creatively and allowed us to expand more.

Cliff T.: Is there a favorite track on this album, and if so which one and why?

Ragan W.: That’s a tough one – each one is close to my heart for one reason or another. I guess if I had to choose, I would say “See You at the Get Down” since it fulfills a long-time dream of mine to have a full horn section on a tune. I am a huge fan of bands that feature horns like Earth, Wind & Fire and Tower of Power. I’m a sucker for a good horn line.

Cliff T.: I see that you actually worked with Patrice Rushen, wow that is cool. What was it like to work with her and the likes of Bob Baldwin and did they help out on this album?

Ragan W.: Patrice Rushen is such an inspiration – she is doing all of the things I aspire to do one day. On top of that, she’s a nice person. She wasn’t involved with Treblemaker, but Bob was. I’ve worked with Bob for many years and have learned a lot from him. His ear is absolutely sick, so you can’t get away with anything that even hints at being a wrong note!

Cliff T.: At age 5 you got into music, have learned to play piano, violin drums but in the end choose to play the flute as well as sing. The flute, what drew you to it? And, what about Jazz drew you to this genre.

Ragan W.: Believe it or not, I did not want to play the flute. When it came time to choose an instrument in the 4th grade, I wanted to play the drums but they didn’t let girls play the drums at the time. So I said, “ok, I’ll play the trumpet” but they ran out of trumpets. The only instruments they had left were the flute and the clarinet. The flute was shinier so I went with that. (smile). As for what drew me to Jazz…it’s the freedom of expression that is most appealing to me.

Cliff T.: I know the feeling I wanted to play drums in high school, instead I took up the Euponium, trust me I am a better writer than a musician. Randis Music is your label, since 2007, congratulations on that as well.

Ragan W.: Thanks! Dennis Johnson (producer/songwriter/engineer) and I formed it when it seemed like Smooth Jazz opportunities were drying up. (Randis is a combination of our names). It feels good to know that I have an opportunity to release music on my own. Thank goodness for technology!

Cliff T.: Will you be going on tour to promote this album?

Ragan W.: Yes – we are in the process of lining up dates now.

Cliff T.: Excellent, Ragan thanks again for doing a Candid Conversation. I really appreciate your time, and wish you much success with Treblemaker and Randis Music.

Ragan Whiteside, flutist singer. Her newest work Treblemaker on Randis Music debuts this month. She spoke with us from Atlanta, GA.


Treblemaker (2017) – Hear sound clips at
Quantum Drive (2014)
Evolve (2012)
Class Axe (2007)

Randis Music

Interesting fact, Ragan Whiteside holds a degree from Harid Conservatory, where her sound was honed with the tried-and-true classical training, graduating with a Bachelor of Music Performance degree.