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For the pet who has everything

New kiosk in the Rogue Valley Mall caters to animal lovers

Diane Lee says the initiative for her new business came to her in a waking moment.

I just woke up one morning close to a year ago wondering what to do with the rest of my life, she said. They say if you do what you love, you'll never work another day in your life.

That was the genesis of Unconditional Love, a business that specializes in gifts for pet lovers. She opened it Sept. — in a kiosk near the second-floor entrance to Meier & Frank in the Rogue Valley Mall.

The business sells greeting cards and calendars featuring various breeds of household pets.

No, we don't have anything with ladybugs, she tells a woman who stopped by. It's just dogs and cats.

A year ago, Lee was living in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and working at Amgen, the world's largest biotech company. This is her first venture as an entrepreneur, but her father and sister own businesses and she figures she has it in her. Her background is in real estate and interior design, but she knew what she wanted to do would involve pets.

I tried grooming, but I quickly discovered that's not what I wanted to do, she said.

She became intrigued with the idea of selling gifts for pet lovers when she sought gifts for her sister, who had a springer spaniel. Lee looked into potential suppliers and locations. Her neighbor advised her to consider Bend.

I didn't like the town, but as long as I was in Oregon, I explored some more, she said. I really liked Medford. I spent three days here. I found a real estate agent -- Trish Baird -- who really helped me out.

She researched the Rogue Valley, from Ashland to Grants Pass, and found no businesses like hers. Her decision to open in the Rogue Valley Mall was based on the amount of exposure she could get there.

She scoured gift and pet trade shows in California to find suppliers of products suitable for the business.

She tries to stock products at Unconditional Love that relate to popular breeds. She has a line of wind socks, for instance, topped by the likenesses of dogs: Dalmatian, black and yellow Labrador retrievers, golden retriever, Rottweiler, German shepherd, cocker spaniel or schnauzer.

She will do special orders. The telephone number is 774-9097.

She says the long days at the mall -- 11 to 13 hours, seven days a week -- are worth it.

She points to some people who are shopping in the card section.

Look at them, they're smiling, she said. This generally brings a smile to people's faces. People who have pets like pets. It's not a hard sell.

Diane Lee, owner of Unconditional Love, hopes the uniqueness of her gifts-for-pets kiosk will ensure success. - Photo by Andy Atkinson