For the past two years, Wesley Chapel-area pet parents have been finding — and falling in love with — Max’s Natural Pet Market & Salon, which opened in 2019 on S.R. 54, about a mile east of Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd., near the entrance to Saddlebrook Resort.

Now, the store’s second location has opened, bringing premium nutrition and impeccable grooming in a cage-free facility to New Tampa, just south of County Line Rd.

Located in the same shopping plaza on the southeast corner of Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. and County Line Rd. with Winn-Dixie and LA Fitness, the new store is owned and operated by Gregg and Gabriel Clavijo-Hopper, who are business partners of Paul Spalvieri’s. Spalvieri opened the original Max’s location and will continue to operate that store.

Max’s Pet Market & Salon is named after Paul’s four-year-old bichon frisé. Paul and his wife Martina live in Watergrass in Wesley Chapel and are pet parents to both Max and Missy, a Havanese, as well as three human kids.

Gregg and Gabriel are Paul’s neighbors. They became interested in opening their own Max’s location when they heard Paul was looking to expand the concept beyond Wesley Chapel.

As Paul was looking forward to opening new locations, Gabriel said, “Why don’t you let us buy into it?”

Being a healthcare worker during the Covid-19 pandemic took its toll on Gregg, and he decided he wanted out of the industry. Gregg worked in healthcare for 30 years, and Gabriel has worked at the Moffitt Cancer Center for about 20 years. They both love animals and knew they weren’t ready to retire.

Gregg says it went from a dream to a decision in December 2020, when he left his job to actively pursue opening a location of Max’s.

They are pet parents to a giant schnauzer named Regalo, a Pyrenees/border collie mix named Albee, and a Chinese crested named Taylor. They also have two human sons, Tony and Devin. Devin works at the store alongside Gregg and Gabriel.

“Our dogs have had skin and coat and stomach issues,” says Gregg, “and Paul told us about what he was doing — feeding dogs the right kinds of foods — and moving our dogs to that, we immediately saw great changes.”

For example, their dog Taylor had diarrhea every day, along with problems with his skin. They followed Paul’s advice and changed Taylor’s nutrition, with the high-quality, all-natural and organic food options from Max’s.

“He’s a completely different Taylor,” Gregg says. “Now he has a beautiful coat, no upset stomach, and no ripping of the skin.”

He and Gabriel have been training with Paul to learn about pet nutrition, and also taking many online seminars and reading books about how to help pet owners choose the food and treats that will help their pets eat healthier and avoid skin and digestive issues.

When You Love Your Animals

Gregg and Gabriel say their venture into the pet market and salon business is all about their love of animals.

“Pets are a great part of our families,” Gregg says, “and with the right nutrition and care, they can live long, healthy lives. There’s nothing better than having an animal companion.”

They believe that opening Max’s Pet Market & Salon is bringing something brand new to the community.

“The one thing that we’ve been missing in New Tampa is a boutique healthcare store for pets and a cage-free, relaxed environment for grooming,” says Gregg, “Plus, the store is bringing 15-20 new jobs to the area.” At out press time, the new store was still looking to fill some of those positions.

That includes not only retail staff, but also a team of groomers with technical expertise to give breed-specific cuts, with certifications such as National Certified Master Groomer, as certified by the National Dog Groomers Association of America.

And, the cage-free environment means dogs will never be locked up. Appointments run strictly on time to avoid a pet feeling stressed and anxious in a cage while waiting to be picked up.

Shannon Waite, who lives in Estancia, has been taking her Pomeranians to the original Max’s for grooming since it opened in 2019.

At that time, she had a senior Pomeranian named Leroy. As he got older and couldn’t hear or see, he got jumpy, and Shannon says it became hard to find a groomer who would take him. 

“People don’t really like to deal with senior dogs,” she said, “but at Max’s, they took such good care of him, especially while he was ill.”

While she says her groomer went above and beyond — even coming in on her day off to give Leroy a bath during his last days — Shannon says others in the store did, too.

As Leroy got more sick and refused to eat, Shannon says she was at Max’s a lot.

“They helped me find food that would help him gain weight and told me how to get him to eat it,” she said. For example, “They explained that sometimes the dog can’t smell the food, so they recommended ways to get it to smell, like how long to microwave it for.”

Meanwhile, Shannon says her other two Pomeranians were not having trouble eating at all, so they suddenly ended up having to go on a diet, and the staff at Max’s helped her find the right nutrition for them, as well.

“At that time, I had one senior dog, a toddler and a teenager, so they were all at crazy stages, and they are high-maintenance dogs,” Shannon explains.

She says that the prices at Max’s always seem to be the same or even lower than other places she could buy the same items, including online sources.

“I love Max’s,” she says. “I recommend it to everybody. They take very good care of people’s pets, and that is hard to find these days.”

The New Tampa store is offering Grand Opening specials up until Christmas, including Salon Rewards cards (buy 12 groomings, get the 13th free, while the card supply lasts). Some of these specials may be noted on Max’s Facebook, Instagram and TikTok pages.

“When we first opened the store, it was all about Max, but our focus has changed,” says Paul. “Now, it’s all about your pet. (Both locations) offer the highest quality advice, products and grooming that you can get in the New Tampa or Wesley Chapel area. We have your dog or cat’s best interest at heart, and they are the number one reason why we open our doors every day.”

Max’s Natural Pet Market & Salon has two locations and both stores are open every day from 8 a.m.–7 p.m. The original Max’s is located at 28838 S.R. 54 in Wesley Chapel and can be reached at (813) 649-3939. The new New Tampa store is located at 6431 E. County Line Rd., and can be reached at (813) 591-5368. For more information, visit

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