Destination Store

Unique artisan-made products, welcoming atmosphere keep customers returning regularly.

 STORY BY PAMELA MITCHELL

Shop Dog Boutique
SIOUX FALLS, SD

URL: shopdogboutique.com
OWNER: Ellyn Suga
OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2012
AREA: 1,800 square feet
EMPLOYEES: 1 full-time,4 part-time
FACEBOOK: facebook.com/ShopDogBoutique
INSTAGRAM:
instagram.com/ShopDogBoutique

Some pet parents simply pick up supplies. Others turn shopping for their pups into an outing everyone can enjoy. Ellyn Suga built her Sioux Falls, SD, business with the latter group in mind.

“Shop Dog has become a favorite destination for young families and couples who are excited to plan their day’s adventures around visiting our store with their furry companions,” she says.

Suga credits the popularity to a mix of high-quality standbys and limited-edition products, as well as a social atmosphere. The rustic chic decor — chandeliers help light charming displays on wooden-pallet tables and antique ladders — appeals to those who prefer boutique to big box.

Creating Demand 

Shop Dog carries natural foods and treats from the likes of Fromm, Stella & Chewy’s and Himalayan Pet Supply. Toy lines include West Paw, Ruffwear and Planet Dog. Nootie, Earthbath and Zymox are among the grooming products sold. When it comes to accessories for people and pups, though, Suga turns to U.S. artisans.

“I love browsing Etsy and finding someone who has never been approached for wholesale,” she says. “It’s fun to work with them and help their business grow.”

Handcrafted collars at the online marketplace regularly catch her eye.

“We’re known in town for our fun collars. One of my favorite finds is Very Vintage. They are always introducing new fabrics.”

Such frequently updated inventory attracts customers to the store, even when they don’t need to stock up on the basics.

“Regulars come in weekly and do a quick lap to see what’s new.”

And the limited-edition status of many artisan-created items helps to spur sales.

“If they see something they love, they know they need to get it then because the pattern might not be available again.”

Suga fuels that fear of missing out by updating displays to show off recent arrivals and by featuring them on Shop Dog’s Instagram account, which has 5,000-plus followers.

“People want to be in the loop. I can post photos of new collars, and within 36 hours half will be sold.”

Years Of Collecting Images and Ideas Made This Store a 'Dream Come True'

Catch the replay of this Pets+ webinar with Coolest Store Guest Sherri Dechaine, Woof! Woof! Pet Boutique.

SPONSORED BY PETS+

Welcoming to All

While some business owners may cringe when they see young children walk through the door, Suga and her staff cater to them almost as much as they do the dogs in tow.

“I pride myself on our store being super kid-friendly. If a mom wants to look around, we make sure the kids have fun, too, so they aren’t begging to leave,” she explains.

Employees encourage little ones to hold open bakery bags and pick out birthday presents for family pups. Free stickers and facetime with Suga’s Labradoodle Etta also score major points.

“I love having kids in the shop. And customers see that we’re nice to their kids and want to bring them back.”

Happy Hours 

The shopping center in which Shop Dog sits boasts deep patios, allowing for socializing both inside the store and out front. Breed meetups and rescue events are among the organized events, but customers can also hang out at one of the exterior tables or on a bench. They often grab a treat for themselves at nearby Oh My Cupcakes! or Scooter’s Coffeehouse, and then pop inside the store for a bakery item or frozen Yoghund for their pups before taking a seat.

To make Shop Dog even more of a destination, Suga recently applied for and received a wine permit. The first event with adult beverages was a ladies night schedule for May, co-hosted by a local winery.

“We’re super excited!”


PHOTO GALLERY (13 IMAGES) 

 

Five Cool Things About Shop Dog Boutique

1. MILLENNIAL AT WORK: Ellyn Suga was just 26 when she opened Shop Dog Boutique. She worked at a pet store while attending the University of Montana in Missoula and fell in love with the industry. She has grown her business 240 percent since opening.

2. OLD SCHOOL SOCIAL: Employees snap pics of pups for Cute Customer Alert posts on social media. The photos also go into a framed collage that hangs in the store. “Is my dog up yet?” proves a popular question during return visits.

3. TASTY SOUVENIRS: Suga created the South Dakota-inspired Shop Dog & Co. line of dog biscuits — Black Hills Gold Digger, Mount Ruffmore and Fat Prairie Dog — for tourists (nearly 14 million visited the state in 2017) and locals alike. She chooses the ingredients and outsources the baking, then repackages the treats in house.

4. CONNECTING WITH CUSTOMERS: Suga trains her employees to show empathy and expertise when advising pet parents about a product. “We say, ‘I’ve been in your shoes and know exactly what you’re talking about,’ and this really helps.” If they don’t have personal experience, they can use customer testimonials.

5. JOIN THE CLUB: More than 250 emails go out each month to pups celebrating their birth or adoption day. They get a frosted cupcake and a birthday bandana, and their human gets 15 percent off one in-store item as well as a “high-five for being a fantastic pet parent.” Suga says the bandanas are a hit: “I just go to Joanne’s and pick out cute fabrics, then cut them at the shop. People go nuts for them.”


Online Extra: Q&A with Ellyn Suga

Favorite business book?

Building a StoryBrand

Favorite book?

Interpreter of Maladies 

Tell me about your perfect day.

Fall weather. Wake up early. Make coffee and a big breakfast. Take my dog for a long hike. Come home and listen to a podcast while making a delicious dinner with a big glass of red wine.

If your store were on fire, what’s the one thing you’d save?

My backup hard drive.

If money were no object ... 

I’d add a coffee shop and wine bar to my store.

If I were a pet ...

I would be a Golden Retriever because I love treats and cuddling and no one could ever say no to me.

Best vacation ever?

Southern France

If I weren’t a pet business owner ...

I’d be a cheesemonger.

Favorite store that’s not my own.

France 44 Cheese Shop in Minneapolis.


This article originally appeared in the June 2018 edition of PETS+.