It is still quite controversial whether or not the coronavirus—you know that evil virus circling the U.S. since at least January of this year—was really worth closing all of our businesses down for weeks, potentially causing many of us to have to close them permanently.
Many business owners, regardless if they agreed with the Stay-at-Home order or not, took each day in stride and found unique, fun ways to keep and engage a customer base amidst a pandemic.
Take a look at the following businesses to see how they’ve been surviving these crazy times.
Also, check out the K9 Marketplace to find out which businesses are offering curbside, delivery or appointment-only options this summer.
DOGGY DAY CARE: BEYOND THE PANDEMIC
As a community, we have weathered one of the most unsettling and unpredictable times in our history and agree that it is finally time to regroup and begin the process of getting accustomed to the new “normal.” Whether working from home or back in an office, it is time to return to our daily routines—and that includes your dog.
THE NEW NORMAL
Dogs, like humans, tend to be social and thrive on structure and routine as well as mental and physical exercise. While juggling work, kids, homeschooling and your household, your dog may not be receiving the attention it needs to thrive. While it seems that your dog may sleep all day when at home, this is not the case if they are enrolled in a reputable doggy day care program that offers personalized attention, stimulation, activity and the appropriate amount of rest they need.
Central Bark knows that a healthy, happy dog is paramount to any dog owner, and thus offers their personalized Whole Dog Care approach which relies on the latest science-based methods to enrich dog’s whole health—their physical, mental and emotional well-being—throughout their entire life.
At the heart of the Whole Dog Care approach is Enrichment Day Care which offers a healthy and balanced day care experience—one that focuses on your dog coming home happy and calm and a well-rounded member of the family.
CENTRAL BARK’S HEALTH & SAFETY PROTOCOL
Central Bark’s priority has always been the health and wellbeing of the dogs in their care throughout the pandemic and beyond and is strictly following CDC, American Veterinary Medical Association and state guidelines. In addition, while Central Bark’s store cleaning procedure already exceeds the mandated protocol, we have added the following Health and Safety Protocol:
• Enhanced deep cleaning and disinfecting: The company remains vigilant and has doubled the frequency of in-store cleaning and disinfecting procedures utilizing veterinaryhospital-grade disinfectants. All staff are following CDC guidelines as it relates to handwashing.
• Curbside pickup: Customers can call or message when they arrive, and they will be met at the door or car. Your dog’s leash will be unclipped and a slip lead added to take the dog into and out of the building.
• Hand sanitizer and hand washing: Both are available to guests and staff.
• Social distancing: Maintaining 6-foot social distancing to respect everyone’s space and comfort.
For more information, please log onto www.centralbarkusa.com and contact the store in your area to learn more about Central Bark’s health and safety protocol and our Whole Dog Care approach.
PBAOA LAUNCHES “BETTER TOGETHER” IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19
Like the dogs we love so much, we crave connections: A hug, lending a helping hand, a kind word. While we can’t be close physically right now, we can still have meaningful connections. This crisis is bigger than any one of us or any one organization. It is going to take all of us showing kindness to lift the world out of the current darkness.
Since this pandemic grew exponentially in the United States, there are families barely scraping by and those that have lost all income within a matter of days. There are also families that haven’t been as drastically impacted financially but have found themselves trying to navigate a new work environment at home with the entire family. There are those essential workers who may be afraid of what they’ll bring home to their family. While we all may not be in the same boat, we’re all trying to navigate this the best we can.
At Pit Bull Advocates of America, we know our base of supporters is filled with kindhearted folks willing to go out of their way to help people and pets in need.
We also know our following isn’t immune to the financial impact of COVID-19. Whether you need help or are able to be a helper, we can connect you through our new Better Together program.
Those in need and those who are able to help fill out separate questionnaires. Our team reviews the submissions and matches families together based on their responses. Better Together helps with needs such as emotional support, providing food, clothing or toys for people and/or their pets, researching local resources like food banks for folks unable to do so… we’re trying to help in any way possible.
At Pit Bull Advocates of America, we’re always focused on spreading love and compassion. COVID-19 hasn’t changed that about us in any way. It’s only inspired us to find new ways to do more of it! If you need or want to help, please visit our website at https://pitbulladvocates.org/owner-support/better-together/
Be a light in someone’s darkness. Join us in being Better Together! Submitted by PBAOA
Surviving Coronavirus: Small Businesses Battered but Hopeful
Facing plunging sales and shuttered doors, nearly half of small businesses don’t have the resources to stay afloat. They could go under in 90 days if circumstances don’t drastically improve, says a new Goldman Sachs survey.
With so many unknowns being thrown at them, they’re creating entirely new services, shifting how they deliver products and replacing in-person appointments with video conferences. Here’s how local pet-related businesses are adapting to the new normal.
For The Love of Drax, LLC
When Staci Blythe adopted Drax from Elmbrook Humane Society in Brookfield, Wis., she didn’t know that dogs could have allergies. “Drax has a white stripe on his head. It’d break out in hives,” she says. After six months of trial-and-error treatments, she took the Boxador Bulldog mix to Lakeshore Veterinary Specialists. He was diagnosed with 17 year-round allergies.
Drax is allergic to corn, mold, pollen, grass and cats. The one-year-old is sensitive to feathers and sheep too. So, just to be safe, he doesn’t eat poultry, lamb or sheep. He’s on topical creams and takes nightly immunotherapy drops. “He hides his ears and pretends it’s the end of the world,” Blythe says. He gets weekly medicated baths. Sometimes, she cooks bland diet-type foods for him, so she can hide his antibiotics. His treatments cost 1,000 dollars per month.
After Blythe bought Drax a $20 bow tie, she decided to pull her Singer sewing machine out of storage and make bow ties for her family and friends. “I can trace the amount of sewing that I currently do back to my home economics class in middle school,” Blythe says. She posted the bows on her personal Facebook page, and immediately, people wanted to order them. That’s how For the Love of Drax, LLC in Appleton, Wis., was born.
Learning from YouTube, Blythe makes double-layered bows, bandanas, neckties, wristlet lanyards, coin pouches and reversible coffee cozies. Each month, she donates 10 percent of her profits and a gift basket to shelters and rescues like JR’S Pups-N-Stuff, the Wisconsin Humane Society and Off the Chain. “I’ve been saving tiny fabric pieces and putting them into bags until they’re full enough that I can make kennel cots,” she says. “They’re a very flat pillow that keeps shelter dogs from having to sleep on cold concrete floors.”
When the coronavirus pandemic flatlined the economy, Blythe temporarily stopped making designer accessories. She started stitching together double-layer cotton masks with three pleats. “I’ve made nearly 500 masks by myself,” she says. “I’ve gone through over two football fields of elastic. All I have left is a fluorescent beading cord. But it’s elastic and stretchy, so it works.”
Because there are people who are laid off right now and frontline workers who barely make minimum wage, Blythe decided on pay-what-you-can pricing. “If you can’t pay me at all—which has happened in many circumstances—I don’t care,” she says. She’s had a couple of people who’ve donated money or fabric and said, “Use this to cover someone else who can’t pay.”
While she’s slipping 25 percent off coupons in people’s mask packages, she says that making them goes back to everybody doing any good that they can. When the pandemic passes, she hopes customers will use their coupons, so she can build back up her income and begin donating to nonprofits again. “My 10 percent and the gift basket may not add up to a whole ton, but if everybody comes together, we can make a difference for homeless dogs.”
Bark N’ Scratch Outpost
After Carrie Marble fed her six-month-old Bichon named Snowbelle a Puppy Pack with brand-name foods, she began chewing holes in her coat. She also suffered from anal sack problems and debilitating food allergies. Snowbelle’s vet suggested euthanasia.
“I couldn’t accept that, so I set out to find the right diet for Snowbelle,” Marble says. “During my experimenting, I found out that the surgery was completely unnecessary.” All she had to do was find higher-quality food without corn, wheat or soy and by-product meals made from indistinguishable meats and other body parts.
But Marble couldn’t find human-grade meat with living foods like fruits and vegetables in the Milwaukee area. So in 2006 she opened the Bark N’ Scratch Outpost (BNSO). “From that day forward Michael, my husband, nine employees and I have worked day and night to help educate pet owners on how to keep their furry friends healthy,” she says. “We only resell products and don’t manufacture anything. Milwaukee has many local small companies making treats, and we support them. There’s Maxx’s Munchery, Fresh is Best, Auntie Jennie’s Barkery and Stella & Chewy’s.”
Despite the coronavirus pandemic battering the global economy, Marble is connecting with many new pet owners by phone, email or text about nutrition. With so much unknown about the virus, she decided to do curbside pick up and delivery. “When we started curbside, we had resistance. A few customers were dismissive and rude,” she admits. Marble says that curbside pickup offers a middle ground. It allows for both pet parents and staff to stay as safe as possible during the COVID-19 outbreak. It also fights another type of contagion: panicky behavior—which is highly infectious.
Marble spot cleans her delivery vehicle throughout the week. “Once a week, I remove all the mats and scrub them with Thieves Household Cleaner from Young Living,” she says. “Our employees are also wearing face coverings, washing their hands often, using hand sanitizer, cleaning their work stations, diffusing essential oils to clean the air and social distancing.”
As the country picks up steam, the BNSO has reopened its doors. Marble is encouraging customers to wear face masks. She’s also installed a sneeze guard at her registers. “It took a couple of days with drying time to paint it. Michael and his friend Ken did an excellent job making sure it blends with the store’s decor.”
Fancy Pants Pet Salon
At 23, Erin Hennen started working as a dog handler for Central Bark Doggy Day Care in downtown Milwaukee. Within a few months, she adopted Anakin, a yellow Lab mix. Then she took home a little snaggle-toothed dog named Clancy. He was her soul mate and constant companion. “My Clancy Fancy Pants helped me through some of the best and worst times in my life, including standing next to me when I got married and helping me bring home my daughter,” she says.
Fancy Pants Pet Salon (FPPS) in Wauwatosa, Wis. is named after that black and tan puppy. As stay-at-home orders went into effect, the mother of two learned that she had breast cancer. She scraped together enough money to pay her four employees. But she couldn’t pay herself or any of FPPS’s bills. “I applied and received the PPP loan and have since been able to put my employees back on payroll and catch up on all the bills,” she says.
While she’s been getting a lot of phone calls and messages, she’s only seen a slight uptick in retail sales. She sells locally-made dog and cat food, treats and toys. “We also have shampoo and other grooming items, as well as gifts like dog tags, candles, collars and leashes,” she says. “Because I can only sell retail and I have two small children at home, I come in a few afternoons a week and Saturday mornings until about 1 p.m.” She only allows one customer at a time.
Hennen and her staff are sanitizing the door and the credit card machine between each customer. “When we’re allowed to open back up for grooming, I’ll have a crate in the retail area that people can put their dogs into. Once they’ve left, I’ll retrieve them, so there’s no human contact,” she says. “We’re also asking customers to keep their dog’s collar and leash. We’ll bring them back on our own slip leads.”
As COVID-19 squeezed her small business, Hennen began doing curbside pick up and deliveries. She says that there hasn’t been a ton of interest, but she’ll continue the service after the country bounces back from the virus. Hennen also started a YouTube channel to demystify grooming and explain to the general public what tools she uses and how they can use them safely at home.
“For dogs to enjoy grooming, we need to have owners who are willing to work with their pets at home,” she says. “The dogs who are routinely brushed are better for us and show far less stress and anxiety.”
As she battles cancer and the coronavirus fallout, Hennen says that the outpouring of love she’s received has been overwhelming. “Cards, sidewalk art and pictures of clients’ pups on Facebook; it’s been wonderful,” she says. ”When I completely open back up, I’m going to be slower and tired, but I’m still going to be here. Nothing is going to keep me from my friends and your dogs because I love them.”
Awesome Paws Academy
Eighteen years ago, Julie Westphal launched Awesome Paws Academy in Racine, Wis. A veterinary tech and Level 2 fear-free trainer, she helps dog owners who’ve home-based problems but can’t attend physical classes.
“My fear-free program allows for problem-solving and builds trust,” Westphal says. Sherlock, for example, was surrendered to Hudson’s Halfway Home in Decatur, Ill. by his breeder. He was born with a cleft palate and had to be bottle-fed every two hours. Not socialized around his mother or siblings, he snapped at fosters’ fingers and hands. “They sent him up to me, and I fell in love with him. I modified all of those issues early on,” she says. Westphal also has two Dobermans, Argos and Psyche.
As small businesses evaporate because of the pandemic, Westphal has taken hers online. She sells personalized snuffle mats, balls and fleece tug ropes. She says that her out-of-state orders have skyrocketed. On Mondays, she ships them in flat-rate priority boxes through the United States Postal Service. After prepaying with Venmo, PayPal or Square, locals can pick up their enrichment toys from her porch box. “When I drop them off, there’s usually a no-contact dropbox hanging somewhere,” she says.
While she’s shelved her daycare services, her Lodge and Learn program is in full swing. She only takes two dogs at a time because she wants them to be immersed in a home environment with manners and life skills. Westphal also uses Skype and Zoom for 15 to 20-minute virtual lessons on tricks, tracking and nose work. “With behavior modification, I have an initial phone consultation,” she says. “There’s no charge.”
Bay View Bark: Proudly Serving Each Bark 6 Feet Apart
The first week of March, we here at Bay View Bark were busy! We were full for day care most days and almost full for boarding. We were training new staff and covering shifts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We were living our best life—playing endless fetch games, getting lots of cuddles and teaching canine obedience for hours a day. Then concerns of the pandemic started overwhelming the news. Reports of cases in Madison and Milwaukee changed everything almost overnight. Boarding reservations were cancelled as travel plans evaporated and two out of three day care customers pulled their dogs off the schedule as they were suddenly working from home. We quickly introduced social distancing in the lobby for customers and throughout the building for staff. We added more into our already robust cleaning routines to cover those high-touch areas again and again throughout the day. We reached out to family and staff to have masks made for all employees. We listened to concerns of customers and staff and sought out the best information available to guide our decisions. We kept our customers and staff up to date with new information and changed our procedures as the pandemic evolved.
When the Safer at Home order was announced and kennels were classified as essential, we decided to keep things running on a small scale for who needed us and could support us. Our goal was to keep the daily routine consistent for the dogs in our care and to be the one thing in their worlds that didn’t just change. Unfortunately, staff hours had to be reduced to cope with the lower attendance. To keep things true to form for the dogs, manager schedules had to be modified to cover the roles they would normally oversee. We hoped to stick it out and be here with open arms and liver snaps when things started to change for the better. With that decision came others like curbside dropoff and pickup for doggy daycare and boarding clients was instituted. Staff were wearing gloves and masks to carefully get dogs from their parents’ cars and into the building or vice versa. Numbered parking spots line the front of the building, and clients check out and get behavior updates over the phone. Leashes are sprayed with disinfectant, lunch containers brought from home and boarding supplies are all wiped down with disinfectant too.
The month of April was tough going with low daycare attendance and many of the staff on partial unemployment, but things have started to look up. With patience and perseverance, we held on long enough for the daycare numbers to begin to grow again. Clients are grateful for the changes we have made and feel safe with the curbside service. As more people return to work and decide walks just are not enough for Fluffy anymore, we will be here. Or when previous clients decide to get a new puppy that needs socialization, we will happily welcome them back.
This, coupled with receiving funding from the SBA PPP program, has really let us breathe a sigh of relief. I am so incredibly lucky to have great bankers that helped me through the process and be one of the few businesses that received this funding. We are using this time with fewer clients to invest in ourselves—staff training, deep cleaning, maintenance work and upgrading the floors throughout the building so we can emerge stronger than ever.
Thank you to all of our generous customers that bought day care packs that they didn’t really need, purchased gift certificates they never intended to use, left glowing and heartfelt reviews and continued to bring their dogs to Bay View Bark throughout this challenging time. Thank you for coming through for us so we can continue to be here for you.
Submitted by Julia Kaminecki, President, Bay View Bark LLC
Pleasant Amidst A Pandemic
Pleasant Valley Treats, LLC is a woman-owned business located in Washington County, Wis.
We specialize in single-ingredient freeze-dried treats for cats and dogs. All of our treats are locally sourced from the Fehring Family Farm in West Bend, and all of the animals are humanely raised without growth hormones and antibiotics.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, we felt an overwhelming sense of uncertainty. So we chose to kick it into high gear and started researching how to keep our customers safe.
In the beginning, there was little guidance for small businesses, so it was up to us to figure it out. With the help of other small business owners, we worked to increase our sanitary procedures, used more contactless payment methods and offered delivery and contactless farm pickup.
The need to network together to help one another has always been part of our mission statement.
We were able to donate 10 percent of our sales during March and April to Dachshund Friends in Deed.
We continue to support other local small businesses during this difficult time. Donna from 4 Paws in Action was able to provide us with masks that we are so thankful to have. We continue to stay positive and focus on the safety of our customers and look forward to the day where we can all get together at an event and catch up with our 4-legged pals in tow.
Pandemic Perseverance: Curbside Pickup & Delivery
By PAULA MACIOLEK, COPY EDITOR
EarthWise Pet Supply & Grooming is a Madison-area store that offers all-natural pet food and treats, supplies and grooming services, including a self-serve dog wash.
In the days just before living with the coronavirus’ effects, owners Jeff Clark and Tim Hagen saw their business volume increase “with daily sales 50 to 100 percent greater than our typical daily average,” explains Clark. “Customers were stocking up knowing that a lockdown was coming.”
Immediate changes were implemented to promote customer and staff safety. “During these early stages,” Clark says, “it felt like we were constantly tweaking our process in order to keep up with recommendations.” Curbside pickup and dropoff became the practice, and customers were not allowed in the grooming area.
Eventually, state restrictions for grooming services meant appointments had to be canceled. Their call back list contained over 400 people. Being a high-traffic area, the self-service dog wash was also closed.
The situation prompted some difficult decisions about staffing. “Since grooming is a significant portion of our business,” Clark shares, “we knew we would be unable to support our employees through the duration of the Safer at Home order, and we made the difficult decision to furlough all seven of our employees. A very sad day for us all!” Employees received severance equaling one week’s pay and help filing for unemployment benefits. Health insurance was covered for full-time staff.
EarthWise Pet remained open for business with curbside pickup of purchases, and (at the time) no customers were permitted inside the store. Hours were reduced, and the store was closed on Sundays. “We have had online ordering capabilities available to us for many months, but we never focused on it,” and Clark and Hagen gave the website an upgrade making ordering online easier. Delivery became available within a six-mile radius of the store and free of charge for orders over $20.
Like many other businesses trying to receive assistance from the Small Business Administration’s newly created programs, EarthWise Pet’s owners had to exercise a lot of patience and perseverance when applying. They finally were approved for funding and are able to bring all of their employees back to work.
At the end of April, grooming services were restarted as state-ordered restrictions were relaxed some. The store was barraged with phone calls from customers eager to schedule their appointments. At the time, their call back list contained 400 people! Two groomers were able to resume work, and they continue to shorten that call back list while respecting limitations such as needing to work in different rooms.
Staggering schedules allowed a third groomer to come back. A new platform for scheduling grooming was added.
K9-5 Daycare: Confronts & Converts Care with Courage
By PAULA MACIOLEK, COPY EDITOR
Before the world was confronted with COVID-19, K9 to 5 Daycare next to the airport on the east side of Madison was a very busy place with lots of dogs of all sizes and breeds coming through their doors. Owners Kyrstin O’Brien and Michelle Hahn were building relationships daily with dogs and the people who love them.
Once the Safer at Home order took effect back in March, things changed abruptly. K9 to 5 was deemed an essential business and was able to remain open, but practices would have to change some.
Normally, clients would come inside the daycare to drop off or pick up their dogs. Enter the now-ubiquitous curbside service. “We have always offered curbside pickup and dropoff,” says O’Brien, “but we are using our leashes to bring the dogs in and out. We come to the car and pop our leash on and, off we go.”
Any information needing to be shared between staff and clients was best done over the phone, and O’Brien shared that this has been difficult for her and Hahn as it’s cut off that personal contact that they enjoy. “We are barely able to have face-to-face conversations about their dog’s day and any concerns we may have. We have always been a more ‘mom and pop’ business and love getting to know our clients.”
After bringing a dog in or out, common surfaces such as door and gate handles were cleaned. Food dishes and bags brought for a dog were cleaned there, and no other personal belongings were allowed in.
They reduced the number of days open to three. O’Brien describes the scene as being just she and her partner working and having fewer dogs there each day. “We each take our side and are able to stay six feet from each other, but even that can be a challenge at times.”
O’Brien felt a special mission in staying open. “We felt a duty to stay open for our essential clients who are nurses and first responders. They are working long hours and depend on us for care for their dogs.”
K9 to 5 estimated 40 percent fewer dogs in attendance and mentioned that a lot of clients had concerns about their dogs during a pandemic. They were concerned about changes to their dogs’ routines. As O’Brien describes it, “Many of them are used to coming to daycare three days a week and having an outlet for their energy. With them being stuck at home, it does take a mental toll on them. Dogs do not like changes, and not being able to see their daycare moms and friends routinely can [cause] major training setbacks.”
The daycare continually had challenges finding cleaning supplies, but they kept at it. And where there are dogs, there is always poop to pick up. O’Brien didn’t let that sunny perspective of hers go to the dogs; instead, she pointed out, “Thankfully, poop bags were not a part of the shortage!”