Bottle shop owners give back to local pet shelter

Photo c/o Ellen McKim

Photo c/o Ellen McKim


By Jennifer Primrose

In this edition of Five Questions With … we reached out to Ellen and Bruce McKim, owners of BottleMixx bottle shop in north Raleigh to discuss how they use their love of animals and entrepreneurship to help local animal shelters – by raising money, hosting fundraisers, fostering and serving on the Board of one of Wake County’s oldest no-kill rescue organizations.

As we wrap up this month, we hoped to shed a little more light on our local animal shelters. We featured Purr Partners Feline Rescue and our own Triangle Around Town mascot, Waffles. We also featured a blog on a new cat café coming to Raleigh. It only made sense to now feature local entrepreneurs who support our community and our furry ones among us.

Ellen and Bruce originally hail from Pittsburgh, but have also lived in the California Bay Area and northern New Jersey but have called Raleigh home for the past 17 years. Bruce spent 10 years in retailing before moving to sales and eventually became a National Account Manager for a large multi-national supplier. He then got his real estate license in 2008. In addition to the usual real estate work he also flipped homes and bought and renovated homes that they still have as rental properties. 

Related Story: Raleigh couple plans to bring first cat café to town.

Ellen spent the first 2 years of her career in retailing then spent the next 22 years in the pharmaceutical industry in various sales and marketing positions until she retired in 2010.  After enjoying 2 years of retirement together, the McKim’s opened BottleMixx, a popular craft beer and wine store in North Raleigh. 

We first met both Bruce and Ellen at BottleMixx as we tend to frequent the local bottle shops in Raleigh. Aside from the vast selection of beer and wine, tasting events and really incredible anniversary parties, the one thing that struck us the most was the tip jar that lay atop of the bar. BottleMixx generously matches patron’s tips, dollar for dollar, to local animal rescues.

The McKim’s are currently the proud parents of three dogs, all rescues. Sissy is a 14 year old Border Collie mix and was rescued from the Wake County Animal Shelter. Nugget is a 10 year old terrior mix, rescued from the SPCA of Wake County and Indy is a 10 year old Rhodesian Ridgeback mix from a friend of theirs who was fostering for the Franklin County Animal Shelter.  We caught up with Ellen to learn a little more about their advocacy and love of animals.

BottleMixx has been giving and matching all the tips the business has made since 2012. How much money have you donated to local shelters thus far, and how do you decide on a shelter?

Since we opened in October, 2012, we have donated $56,300 to local animal rescue charities. At BottleMixx, Bruce and I personally match all tips left by our customers and donate them to Second Chance Pet Adoptions. Prior to Second Chance we gave a total of $25,000 to the SPCA of Wake Co. We originally started donating the tips to the SPCA of Wake Co., since that is where we got Nugget, but once we hit the $25,000 mark, we thought it was a good time to "share the wealth" and change charities. Over time, we became friends with members of Second Chance and after doing our research decided we were comfortable changing our charity of choice to Second Chance Pet Adoptions. They receive no federal funding and with only 3 paid employees are an organization supported primarily by volunteers.

Ellen is now on the board of Second Chance. How did this come about?

Once we selected Second Chance as our charity of choice, more and more volunteers and Board members started frequenting the store. Bruce and I got to know them better  and grew to like even more what they stood for when it comes to animals. I was approached by the President, Dave Ballesteros and Vice President, Bonnie Millis, to join the Board in August, 2015, and was approved in October, 2015. I thought, in addition to giving money, being on the Board was another way we could contribute. In addition to being on the Board, Bruce and I volunteer at and host fundraising events and we also foster dogs while they wait for their forever homes. We have fostered 7 dogs in 1.5 years.

You see so many commercials on TV with neglected dogs and cats. What can we do as a whole to really help prevent this? We can donate, sure, but what are other things people can do help?

In my opinion, the impactful thing that can be done is spay and neutering your pets. Most of the homeless dogs and cats are in the position they are because of over population. This takes a lot of education, because many people in the community do not think it is that big of an issue or do not have the money for the procedure. Education to raise awareness is the only way things will change.

Related Story: How shelter cats changed our lives: Purr Partners.

There are many shelters out there that do a great job at getting fundraising events known to the public. SAFE Haven for Cats, Second Chance Pet Adoptions, SPCA of Wake County, to name a few. But there are some of the smaller shelters out there that need money to keep feeding and housing the animals. What do you think are some things these places should do to try to reach a wider audience?

Smaller organizations have to work hard at the grass roots level. Just getting the name of your organization known is not an easy thing. Local events, no matter how small, raise awareness and name recognition of these organizations. Also, a social media presence is imperative. It is a way to reach a lot of people for very little money. Sharing, forwarding and re-tweeting is a great way to spread the word.

2016 Art to the Rescue Second Chance Pet Adoptions Fundraiser Photo by: Dathan Kazsuk

2016 Art to the Rescue Second Chance Pet Adoptions Fundraiser Photo by: Dathan Kazsuk

Since the two of you are pet lovers, what would be some tips you would give to someone looking to adopt a shelter cat or dog?

If you currently do not have a pet, I think the main thing to do would be to foster first. This allows you a way to see the realities and responsibilities of owning a pet. The other thing would be to have realistic expectations about your lifestyle, financial situation and time that you will have for an animal. For instance, everyone thinks puppies are cute, but they are a lot of work. They are high energy, chew and need to be potty trained. If the adopter does not put in the time then animals are sometimes returned or abused because of their behavior, but it is not the animal's fault. Also, adopters need to be sure they adopt an animal that is a size they are comfortable with and can handle and are animal or child friendly if they are in the home.  These are living beings that require care and only want our love.  We should give them the best that we can and ultimately both will benefit.

Did you know? Second Chance Pet Adoptions is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year!