America's Coolest

Fido & Stitch — the Business and Brand — Continues to Grow

Fido & Stitch, Grand Rapids, MI

OWNER: Alli McDonough; WEBSITE: fidoandstitch.com; LOCATIONS: 3;  FACEBOOK: fidoandstitchgr; INSTAGRAM: fidostitch; FOUNDED: 2015; AREA: 1,400 square feet Grand Rapids, 800 square feet Rockford, 6,000 square feet Jenison; TOP BRANDS: Fluff & Tuff, Northwest Naturals, Bosco & Roxy, Charlotte’s Web, Earth Animal, West Paw, Fromm, Zignature, Acana, Kurgo, P.L.A.Y., Fringe Toy Shop, Polkadog; EMPLOYEES: 3 full time, 14 part time


Alli McDonough credits her team, in costume and not, with much of the success of Fido & Stitch.

ALLI MCDONOUGH WANTED to own a business that she loved going to every day and that made people happy. So she combined her passion for dogs, community and market research (backed by an MBA), and got to work. When she discovered that Grand Rapids, MI, didn’t have a boutique pet store, she opened Fido & Stitch there in 2015.

“We offer all kinds of supplies, but more on a specialty and holistic level,” McDonough says of the store’s inventory now and then. “We have things that are sustainable, made in the U.S., made locally, etc. We also have pet foods that we handpick ourselves, based on value and specific needs.”

Besides the best products for all dog breeds and needs, Fido & Stitch carries gift and specialty items not found at big-box competitors, along with some cat offerings, while also offering high-end grooming services. All of this contributed to the store becoming quite successful after six years. That was when McDonough decided it was time to expand.

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Planning to Expand

McDonough never wanted to own just one store; her goal was always to operate multiple locations. “It spreads costs across more than one location while increasing revenue, so it’s a great way to become more profitable,” she says. “Plus, it allows my brand to be recognized in more areas and become more widely known without spending more advertising dollars.”

In 2021, McDonough expanded the Grand Rapids store to create a larger grooming department, satisfying a big need in the area at the time. That same year, she opened a second location with grooming in Rockford, MI. In 2023, she acquired a boarding and day-care facility. It became Fido & Stitch Pet Resort & Salon in Jenison, MI.

McDonough had always had an interest in adding a day-care and boarding facility. “It would be another service to give my customers as a part of their one-stop shop with Fido & Stitch,” she says, and, “It definitely adds to the overall bottom line.” Since acquiring the facility, she and her team have focused on rebranding and improving its reputation.

Of course, running three locations has its challenges. McDonough says it’s harder to get to know all of her employees (something she loves to do), and there are three times the issues that need to be addressed. But thanks to the more than 25 full-time and part-time employees, Fido & Stitch as a whole continues to move forward and grow. McDonough credits her team with much of the success and says that they are “what make the business go round.”

Even with different aesthetics across three locations, the Fido & Stich brand carries through both inside and out.

Creating the Dream Team

The No. 1 requirement to work at Fido & Stitch: Be passionate about dogs and people. “These are two skills that you can’t teach,” McDonough explains.
She leads strategy, finances and operational tasks, plus partners with department managers to run daily operations. McDonough strongly believes in utilizing the strengths of employees to give them roles and responsibilities they are good at, so everyone sees the contribution they make and takes ownership. Also, she’s found that this approach keeps them engaged and happy — a big factor in growing the business.

All retail employees go through WhizBang! Retail Training’s Retail Sales Academy. It teaches operational processes, procedures, product knowledge, customer service and retail sales, including through a custom course for Fido & Stitch. Not only do all of the employees get a certification in retail sales, they also learn common procedures. The program includes videos and quizzes specific to the brand. “It is a great way to get employees on-boarded without wasting manpower to do so,” McDonough says. “There is obviously hands-on training that is very important, but this allows us to touch on a lot of topics they wouldn’t otherwise be introduced to until a few months into the training.”

In a creative pivot to hire and retain quality groomers, McDonough has also fully supported three grooming apprenticeships through Paragon Grooming School. The apprentices, including Shannon O’Hara (at left), also receive training and hands-on experience from Fido & Stich groomers, particularly the grooming manager. “She’s been pivotal,” McDonough says of Bobbi Bloom, who has more than 12 years of experience and is particularly skilled with helping dogs who’ve had bad experiences with grooming in the past.

Also on her rockstar top team are Sofia Seath, the retail manager who manages both stores, and Alexandria Bowers, the day-care and boarding manager at the resort. McDonough says, “Putting these people in place has been a game changer to my success in the last couple of years, and I attribute a lot of it to them and the employees they helped to hire.”

Alli McDonough added a day care and boarding facility to the Fido & Stitch family in 2023. She looks forward to its role in growing the bottom line of the business in 2024.

Leaning on Those in the Know

One of the biggest lessons McDonough has learned is to lean on other people’s strengths when needed. She isn’t afraid to ask for help, but in the beginning was reluctant because of cost. McDonough ultimately figured out, though, that “You can’t do it alone if you want to grow. I think that is an important thing for all business owners to know.”

She’s received help in areas that have had a huge impact on Fido & Stitch’s bottom line. One was the total rebrand by Dox Design. McDonough wanted to move beyond the original colors, simple logo and inconsistent branding to something that better represented the current business. Dox Design created a consistent and custom voice for the brand, including sub-logos, graphics, icons and background wallpaper. “It allowed me to grow simply by maturing my brand and reaching customers in a consistent and professional way,” she says. That consistency is seen across all three locations, despite their varying clientele and different exterior and interior aesthetics. “Our Grand Rapids store has an urban-industrial vibe, where our Rockford store has a Main Street and bright atmosphere. Our resort location is an open-concept boarding and day-care facility, a more ‘boutique’ facility where you can see everything that goes on within.”

McDonough also got professional help with bookkeeping, which she did for the first four to five years and hated. She hired Symmetrical Solutions to take about 20 hours of bookkeeping off her plate each month, which she now invests in other parts of the business. Plus, “I now trust that my books are correct and done on time,” she says.

All of the team members and outside help have allowed McDonough to focus on what she loves doing and what helps her grow the business, such as strategic aspects of the company including forecasting, growth and marketing strategy, leadership, and community building.

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Looking Toward the Future

McDonough remains focused on growing the bottom line. Currently, boarding brings in 11% of total revenue and day care 12%, from Fido & Stitch Resort & Salon. Grooming, from all three locations, contributes 53%. And retail — from the two stores — contributes 24%. Instead of adding more locations in 2024, she’s looking to increase Fido & Stitch’s total revenue by 29% to hit more than $1.4 million.

How to hit this goal? She says, “The biggest thing is growing our customer base.” It’s all about retaining and attracting new customers at the three locations — to become the brand that the locals shop as their one-stop destination for food, treats, chews, grooming and even training.

McDonough also points to continuing Fido & Stitch’s important mission. “The big picture is educating as many people on how to give their dog a long, healthy and happy life through nutrition, proper grooming and socialization.”

Five Cool Things About Fido & Stitch

1. PRIVATE SHOPPING: To give all dogs the opportunity to enjoy Fido & Stitch, the store will open early for private shopping. This welcomes in people and their reactive pups who wouldn’t feel comfortable coming in during regular business hours.

2. MARKETING INTERNS: Each store has its own social media specialist, who regularly posts and engages with customers. McDonough makes it part of a marketing internship she offers through local colleges. “It helps us staff the store,” she says, “while hiring someone who can help with all marketing aspects, like social media, communications, event planning, etc.” McDonough believes that adding this role has been a game changer for Fido & Stitch’s online presence.

3. BONE BOX: Each box includes healthy and digestible bones and chews, with a unique product the dog probably has not had. Customers can purchase a monthly subscription for $29.99 or $49.99, with size and number of chews varying, or save with a three- or six-month subscription.

4. LOOK IT UP: Employee “manuals are built by those in the roles on a day-to-day basis,” McDonough explains, “so they are accurate and thorough, and pertain directly to situations encountered on a day-to-day basis.” There’s a manual for every aspect of the business — grooming, retail, and boarding and day care — plus a general employee handbook that covers values, dress code and policies. Managers regularly update them.

5. PAWTY TIME: McDonough says, “We always try to come up with new ways customers can involve their dogs in the fun!” The three locations host a variety of events throughout the year, engaging shoppers and helping to keep Fido & Stitch top of mind. Among them: tailgating parties for football games, community Woof Walks to neighborhood breweries and restaurants, pictures with Santa and an annual customer appreciation event. Giving back is important, too: Annual events benefit local animal shelters.

PHOTO GALLERY (11 IMAGES)

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JUDGES’ COMMENTS
  • I love the brand story and presentation. Design is great on the interior and exterior, but it’s the branding, events and subscription box that get me! — Pete Scott, American Pet Products Association
  • I really appreciate the fact that Alli is able to recognize the strengths in her employees, and based on those strengths give them agency and a feeling of ownership in the store. It’s so important for an employee to feel that their opinions or ideas have value, and that their boss and peers trust them to problem solve. As for her rebrand, it takes a savvy business owner to recognize a need for one. It also takes some guts to actually commit to doing it. Their website is beautifully designed. The word “fresh” keeps coming to mind. — Katherine Carbonaro, Astro Loyalty
  • The seasonal decor, both inside and outside, is adorable and welcoming, as are the events throughout the year. Way to support the local rescues! Great loyalty-building efforts with the subscription box, and it is such a well-designed package, too. — Paige Kraemer, ABOC, Sales Consultant – Missy Limbeck, Pet Palette Distribution
  • Kudos to growing your business so quickly and having retail, grooming and day care! That’s not an easy task! — Paige Kraemer, ABOC, Sales Consultant – Nancy Guinn, Dog Krazy
  • The Fido & Stitch storefront is well done. The interior of the store has good bones with the high wood ceiling. Fun “water patterned” vinyl floor up front. — Lyn M. Falk, Retailworks Inc.

Melissa L. Kauffman

Melissa L. Kauffman is the former editor of Dogster and Catster and has covered the pet world in print and online for 30 years — everything from products, retailers, trade and consumer shows to cats, dogs, birds, fish and rabbits. She lives in Charlotte, NC, with her husband, three dogs and two parrots.

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