Businesses team up to pamper pooches

Posted: Thursday, December 02, 2010

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- What do you get the dog that has everything?

Ap Photo/Alaska Journal Of Commerce, Andrew Jensen
Ap Photo/Alaska Journal Of Commerce, Andrew Jensen
Chelsey Homan, left, with dog Skipper, and Jann Palach, with dog Hendrix, pose in the space of their respective businesses, Doggy Decadents and Paw Prince, in Anchorage on Nov. 20.

That all depends on your definition of "everything."

Gourmet homemade treats, canopy beds, the latest fashions and even non-alcoholic Bowser Beer are just a sampling of the puppy pampering available at Paw Prince and Doggy Decadents.

The two businesses geared toward the spoiled pooch are now under one roof at Huffman Road and Old Seward Highway in Anchorage. Jann Palach bought Paw Prince in August and invited Doggy Decadents founder Chelsey Homan to open her first storefront bakery inside the new location.

Homan, 21, has been baking her brand of biscuits since her senior year of high school and her business has doubled each year after starting out at farmer's markets in Eagle River and Anchorage.

Set to graduate in December with a double major in marketing and business management from University of Alaska Anchorage, Homan is ready to take Doggy Decadents to the next level.

"I won't have the stress of school," she said with relief. "That will help my productivity."

Palach, who described herself as "kind of the crazy dog lady" with three Old English sheepdogs and three Havanese, has been retired from state government for three years and said she was looking for something fun to do. Unlike her "previous life" as a probation officer, the people she sees on a daily basis now have a different reaction when they come through her doors.

"People come in and smile," she said. "It's just fun."

Palach's practice of carrying local products made Paw Prince a perfect fit for Doggy Decadents. Palach carries products from the Alaska Leash Co., doggy fleeces from Heidi and Co., and dog-themed paintings from local artists Laurel Carnahan and Vicki Rae.

Homan was already a vendor to Paw Prince. She also wholesales Doggy Decadents treats to outlets such as Alaska Mill and Feed, Country Canine, Grizzly's Gifts and Cabin Fever.

"It's worked out really well," Palach said of bringing Homan's bakery into her store. "It's a good partnership. It's a really good fit for both businesses."

Homan's bakery is still a wholesale operation inside the store selling Doggy Decadents to Paw Prince, but she no longer has the same delivery overhead with her products going straight to the shelf. For the grand opening and the upcoming Christmas season, Homan said she baked between 400 pounds and 500 pounds of treats.

A typical week is between 50 pounds and 100 pounds, she said.

Homan is also expanding her retail operation through her online store. A $400 per month investment in Google advertising is paying off. Homan said 30 percent of her business is now being generated through online sales and she's received orders from Texas, New York and Pennsylvania, in addition to in-state orders from Kodiak to North Pole.

She uses all organic, human-grade ingredients, including sprinkles and yogurt coatings. Popular items include peanut butter carob chip bones, honey-oat sandwiches and coconut clusters. She also does doggy birthday cakes, cupcakes and "celebration bones" with personalized messages.

Eventually, Homan would like to get large-scale production going in Washington state and take Doggy Decadents nationwide. There will be hurdles, as simply getting licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to sell her 10 lines of treats in all 50 states will cost about $15,000 per year.

Homan has also grown her business through a fundraising program for local groups to sell her products. Both her parents are business owners, her father is a contractor and her mother a seamstress. The Athena Society of Anchorage, an organization geared toward developing women in business, sent her to Cornell University during her senior year of high school and she attended the Alaska Business Week sponsored by the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce.

"I've had a lot of help along the way," she said.

An $8,000 loan from Credit Union 1 allowed Homan to purchase her new mixer and ovens.

"I'm always trying to reach the next goal," Homan said. "If I didn't have a goal I probably would have burned out by now. I'm a driven person and I don't stop until I get there."

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