EVERY SINGLE BUSINESS that entered the 2022 PETS+ America’s Coolest contest qualifies as cool. We should know, as we read every single word and looked at every single image in the 80-plus entries.
There are only 16 spots for profiles in the magazine, though, over the course of the contest year.
That’s up from 10 in 2021, but we still wish there were more!
With that in mind, we’re introducing this “One Really Cool Thing” section to our annual kick-off issue. Here we highlight just some of the features that stood out to judges as they were going through the entries. We encourage all business owners who entered but didn’t place to try again in 2023. As we like to say, “You just haven’t won yet.”
‘What’s Barking Local’
ANIMAL CONNECTION, CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA
Each week, Pattie Zeller co-hosts a live show on Facebook with special guests from other pet-related businesses and organizations. They talk about new products, adoptable pets and upcoming events. Zeller and co-host Jerry Miller have even done a “dog-treat tasting” to prove how tasty humans find some of the treats she sells. The show replays on 18 Facebook/Instagram pages, is available on iTunes and has sponsors that cover production costs. Talk about free and far-reaching marketing!
DOGTOWN BAKERY, HONOLULU, HI
Throughout her full-service bakery, Michelle Ichikawa has placed special touches that encourage canine customers to make themselves at home and to explore. A bar with a paws-up counter allows them to enjoy their pup cup or treat like a civilized dog. A clear glass refrigerator also sits just at their eye level so they can nose out which cake they want.
24,500 Square Feet of Training Fields
K-9 CULTURE, CARROLLTON, TX
Glass walls separate seven 3,500-square-foot fields at the largest indoor dog-training facility in Texas, allowing clients to observe how the team interacts with and trains their dogs when they are not taking part. Founders Charles and Laura Countryman, their son Wyatt Dale, and Julie Tyler-Clidiere and Lucas Selph lead the pack. We can’t wait to learn more about this business in 2023.
Payments in Kind
PAWS ON MAIN, COTTONWOOD, AZ
Through this special program, Denise Strong donates 20% of the profit from every credit card transaction at her store directly to Breeder Release Adoption Service, a nonprofit rescue group she’s worked with since 2011. Strong also donates hundreds of pounds of dog food and proceeds from her Holiday Pet Photos each year to the group and other rescues. Her efforts help many dogs and cats, and make her a favorite small business in the community.
Montessori for Dogs
BATH & BISCUITS & FIA’S CANINE DAYCARE CENTER, GRANVILLE, OH
Danielle Wilson describes the day care at her multi-service business as “Montessori for dogs,” an enrichment-based curriculum that includes arts and crafts, workouts, one-on-one training, puzzles and even story time — and of course recess inside surrounded by colorful murals and outside on a variety of play surfaces. The goal, she says: Dogs go home tired in a good way, without crankiness from non-stop playing.
Canine Cash Scramble
DOGS & CATS RULE, PA and NJ
This summer, the seven-store chain owned by brother-sister team George Parente and JoAnn Parente will sponsor its 14th Bark at the Park promotion with American Minor League Baseball team Trenton Thunder. Attendees can enter their dog into a drawing, with the winner allowed to run onto the field after the game to pick a ball from 100 on the grass. One is worth $10,000! The odds are never in the pup’s favor, but it entertains the crowd in the store’s name.
GANGSTA DOG, LOUISVILLE, KY AND YORKTOWN, VA
Owner Gary Hughes carries his 1920s gangster theme to just about every aspect of his dog bakeries. Cookie shapes include Dirty Rat, The Muscle and Bootlegger. Portraits of dogs dressed as gangsters hang on the walls. His business card and tag line don’t disappoint either: “Dog biscuits so good they have to be transported in armored cars!”
VIVARIUMS IN THE MIST, FLORAL PARK, NY
At his small private showroom, Paul Demas uses his expertise and carefully curated product selection to help amphibian and reptile enthusiasts create the miniature jungles of their dreams. He works by appointment, showing examples of his work to customers and helping to create the environment best suited for the animal they intend to house. Demas also helps them make sense of the often conflicting and overwhelming information about the care of these pets online.