MISSOULA — Alina McCue first saw Missoula through the lens of a microscope as a wildlife biologist. Born and raised in Argentina, she came to the University of Montana in 2002 to work for a professor in the wildlife biology program.
Little did she know that almost 20 years later, she’d be calling Missoula her home and opening her very own business downtown.
“The first time I came to Missoula, it was July, everything was so green, so beautiful,” recalled McCue. There’s just something about Missoula that’s always drawn McCue in, so much that she’s taken her Argentine roots and planted them here in Montana.
“I definitely consider Montana my home. This is where I have my kids and my husband, my family.”
On paper, McCue’s a wildlife biologist, but this year, she’s officially hanging up the lab coat and embarking on the path of entrepreneurship.
The change in direction all started with her family’s new puppy. “I started to look around town, and I was looking for leashes and collars and accessories and toys, but I couldn't find the products that would check all the boxes, and that's when I started to dream the idea of what if I could open something,” McCue told MTN News.
That something turned into conversations with friends and mentors, which evolved into a business plan, a logo designed by her cousin, products filling shelves, and eventually, Toiffer Pet Outfitter -- coming this June.
“Toiffer started from a dream of bringing sustainable, beautiful, functional, durable, earth-friendly pet products to Missoula.”
Spotted under the blue and white striped awning on Higgins, Toiffer carries recycled and upcycled pet products, like scraps from climbing rope turned into leashes.
It also carries local goods -- water dishes from ceramicist Courtney Murphy and collars from Whiskey LeatherWorks.
McCue said she hopes the business offers both retail and resources.
Down the road, she’ll be partnering with veterinarians and animal-welfare agencies to bring programming to her customers, like seminars on pet first aid.
“I love the Missoula community so much, and that’s one of the reasons I got inspired to open this store,” said McCue.
At the grand opening of Toiffer Pet Outfitter on June 4, McCue will have two special guests in the crowd -- her parents, visiting all the way from Argentina.
Like their daughter, their story all started with a puppy -- his name was Toiffer. “Toiffer was a puppy that my dad gave to my mom when they were dating. He was an amazing companion, so Toiffer resonated with me when I was starting to look for names -- Toiffer brings my heritage from Argentina, it also was part of my family, and it was a dog I adored and everyone adored.”
Toiffer is located at 422 North Higgins Avenue.