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Your Neighbor: Meet Phil Ray

By Mandy Haggerson
For the Clemmons Courier

Phil Ray grew up in Miami, Florida, as the youngest with five older sisters. “There were only 10 years that separated us, so we were all very close,” mentions Ray. “Because of where we lived, we did a lot of outdoor activities as kids. My dad was from a Caribbean Island, so he was a big fisherman and he passed that down to us. We were always on a boat. My favorite type of fish was the edible type,” jokes Ray.

Knowing how much he enjoyed being outside, Ray wasn’t sure what he planned to do as a young adult.  When he entered college at Indian River State College, he thought he would go into finance and banking. “After college, I started working for SunTrust (Sun Bank back then) as a loan officer,” reflects Ray. He was recognized for his efforts and moved up very quickly for his age at the branch located in Miami. “After five years, I knew that I didn’t want to wear a suit and tie the rest of my life. I changed gears completely and got a fire science technology and paramedics degree from Miami Dade College,” says Ray. “I loved it. I got to help people which I am very compelled to do, and it was a lot more physical being in the fire service, which I enjoyed immensely.”

With Ray’s career headed down the right path, he also settled down and married his now wife of 26 years, Mariela. “She’s my partner with everything and I am the luckiest guy in the world. We’ve had two beautiful children together, a son and daughter. They are adults now, and I’m incredibly proud of the choices they’ve made and the people they have become,” reflects Ray. “They’re the reason you get up in the morning and make the choices that you did. Family is really everything.”

While raising children, and serving in the fire service for 20 years, Ray took another adventure, he opened a large distribution center. “I’ve got an entrepreneurial spirit, and I decided to pair that with my love for pets. Our family greatly values nutrition and health, so with my background in medical I focused on providing highly nutritious options for pets. My distribution center shipped the food to three different states primarily,” explains Ray.

Although business was booming, Mariela and Phil decided to make a move that placed family first. Mariela’s mom had fought cancer, and they wanted to be closer to her down in North Carolina. “I think it’s safe to say having grown up in the Miami area most of my life, I would have never moved down to this area, had it not been for family, but we have absolutely loved it. My kids have even moved down here too and have embraced it as well,” mentions Ray.

Starting from square one with his business again, Ray opened up a natural food store, Best 4K9. “To say that I am passionate about educating and providing a source for quality food for pets is an understatement. You can’t trick people with nutrition. It either works or it doesn’t. We like to do a label challenge. Bring us your label of your pet’s current food, and we will educate you on how to read it. We really take pride in customizing the nutrition plan to your pet and your pet’s needs. It’s a one-on-one interaction because every pet is different,” explains Ray. With stores in the Robinhood area, Greensboro and Oak Ridge, Ray has quickly become the go-to for natural foods.

Ray has enjoyed the southern hospitality that has been showed to him and his family when they moved from Florida. “Our business has been embraced, our children have loved it, and we are so glad that we made the leap of faith that we did,” says Ray.