Ever wonder how your local pet store came to be or where your own entrepreneurial dreams might take you? From time to time, we will be profiling some of our favorite retailers here on our blog and sharing their stories. This guest post is from Jamie Parent who has owned A Place for Fido, based in Duluth, MN, since 2012.
Ben and I lived aboard a sailboat in Northern California for ten years. We had two dogs at the time, Jazz & Ginger, and they were sisters from the same liter. We lost Jazz quickly as we had no idea that she had a mass growing inside of her. She was about 12 years old and it was an extremely difficult loss for us because our “girls” got us through a lot of hard times. In Ben’s search of trying to find a way to memorialize Jazz and he found paracord braiding. We then began making paracord collars and leashes for Ginger and our friends. With that our paracord making business, Jazzy Dog Togs, was born and sold online. We then decided it was time to move back “home” to the Midwest to bring our young son closer to more family. Our original plan was to build a kenneling facility with a retail store, but the cost was too great so we put our focus into just a retail store. Ben and I have many years of experience as entrepreneurs, managers, merchandisers, and general customer service. We were originally looking at retail spaces in our hometown in Wisconsin until Ben’s sister told us about this unique location in Duluth, MN. The Fitger’s building is a hotel with 3 restaurants, bars, a brewery, and retail stores along the shore of Lake Superior. The history of this building dates back to the late 1800’s when it was built as a brewery. The brewery survived the prohibition by making soda and candy and started producing beer once again after prohibition. The brewery closed in 1972 after over 100 years of brewing and was reopened in 1985 as the hotel and shopping center. Our shop is where the original Tap Room was. The Fitger’s Brewhouse is also making beer again on the premises and is known as the original brew pub of Duluth. All businesses within the building are locally owned and many of them are operated by the owners themselves. With the old world charm of Fitger’s and our love for water, we knew this is where we needed to be. Shortly before we moved back we lost Jazz’s sister, Ginger. With the help of a close friend Jazz and Ginger became the faces of our logo. Our “girls” will always be with us! Our paracord business led us in an outdoor dog direction because of the survival benefits of paracord. For instance, if you have a 7” braided paracord bracelet when you unbraid the bracelet you will have approximately 7’ of 550# cord that can be used in a survival situation. That cord also has 7 inner strands that can be pulled out and used for things like sewing thread to repair gear. Just think of all the things you can do if you have a 48” leash that has 48’ of cord. With paracord we can make almost anything a customer needs. We’ve done many specialty leashes for working dogs that can either hook up to wheelchairs, short handler’s leads, and hands-free leashes. Duluth is also an outdoor city with high tourism in the summer. There are so many trails and places to explore outdoors with your dog. The extreme cold and snowy winters do not keep a Duluthian down. And all of these active, outdoor, and working dogs need other gear too. A Place for Fido opened in 2012 and are the Canine Outfitters of Duluth MN.
Fitger’s is a dog-friendly mall and all of the restaurants have outdoor seating in the summer that allow dogs. The hotel also has pet-friendly rooms available. So yes, dogs are allowed to come into our store, in fact, we highly recommend it when shopping for harnesses, jackets, and boots. We have found over the years that every brand fits every dog differently, so just a girth measurement doesn’t always work. And most customers don’t even come prepared with that measurement. Our staff is trained in fitting dogs and getting the right piece of gear for each unique pup. We have a very loyal base of customers and we also get a lot of tourists. Our customers love our rewards program and the fact that we are a locally owned store. Our customers see either Ben or I Monday through Saturday which helps maintain our regulars because of our personal connection with them. We also host fun dog events like Canine Carnival in the Spring, Doggy Yappy Hour (we partner with our neighboring restaurant, The Boat Club), and Fido’s Fall Festival in the fall. Our store is open 10-9 Mon-Sat and 11-5 on Sundays, which is when the mall is open. For the first 3 years of business Ben and I were the only employees. When did we have family time? Sundays after 5 and holidays! Talk about stamina and the determination to succeed!
With a small store, (700 square feet of retail sales and 100 square feet of storage), we can sure pack a lot of dog gear in here. Some of our best-selling Kurgo gear is in our travel section - portable bowls and seatbelt tethers. We love that Kurgo has such a variety of portable bowls to fit the needs of everyone!
Our biggest tip for others starting out in this business or with any business adventure is to stay your course. Don’t try to be everything to everybody because you will lose yourself. Work at your business, with your customers, and build that relationship of trust.