By TIM CLEVELAND
After operating his food service company Culinary Management for 15 years, Austintown’s Roger Parson decided to go in a different direction.
On April 21, he opened his new business called Puptown Pantry Grooming and Barkery, located at 110 Javit Court Plaza, which grooms dogs and sells dog and pet supplies. The store’s grand opening was May 1.
“We were a food service company for 15 years, so about a year ago we had the idea of doing some gourmet treats and we had the opportunity to move into this building and open a little retail store,” he said. “We incorporated the grooming and we have a seamstress that does all custom-made clothes to fit your dog. We measure the dog, the length and girth of the dog, and actually make the clothes specific to the dog.”
Parson owns the business with his wife Bobbie Jo and his mother Lana. The fourth member of the team is the store’s groomer Heather Doniferro.
“Our groomer Heather came to us after an extensive search for the right groomer,” Roger Parson said. “We didn’t just want a shave-down groomer. Heather has 20-plus years’ experience in grooming. She does everything from your basic grooming on up to doing show dogs.”
Doniferro said she hopes to build long-term relationships with the store’s clients.
“We’d like to get the puppies in here first and get them to know us and build a relationship,” she said. “I think that’ll be good for the owners and it’ll be good for everyone around to have a good relationship.”
“Just like with everything else with training a puppy, with the grooming you have to get them broken in and trained into that, too, and as early as you can start,” Parson said. “That way, they don’t get as stressed out when they come to the groomer.”
Puptown Pantry has distributed coupons for 20 percent off a grooming and a puppy’s first groom is free.
Besides the treats, some of the products offered are toys, pet supplies, collars, shampoos, baskets and dog pillow and blanket sets.
“We also offer on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we go out and pick up and deliver your dog back to you,” Parson said. “So for some elderly people, shut-ins, or maybe elderly people who can’t handle getting their dog transported, we’ll do that for you.
“We kind of specialize in more high-end things. A little more blingy type of things than some of the other places do.”
Another product that Puptown Pantry sells are doggie birthday cakes.
“You can call two days ahead of time and get your birthday cake specially made for the dog with all whole-wheat flour and all ingredients that are good for the animal,” Parson said. “They’re also human consumable, not that I would necessarily serve a slice. We had a piece of the carrot cake dog cake and it was excellent.”
Parson explained one way that Puptown Pantry is different from most groomers.
“Some of the dog groomers out there are very high-volume,” he said. “You walk in there and dogs are barking and carrying on. We take the philosophy that we don’t want that many dogs in here at once. We schedule a little differently. We want to keep our facility extremely clean and sanitary for the dogs.”
Despite being open for less than two weeks, Parson said business has been doing well.
“So far, so good,” he said. “Getting the word out there is the biggest thing. We’re kind of set off from Mahoning Avenue a little bit. We don’t have the frontage like we would from Mahoning Avenue, but the papers and the news have been really great with us. We attended the Niles Pet Expo and that gave us a lot of introduction to the public.”