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Pet entrepreneur creates branded product lines to continue growing her business.

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Bark, Jacksonville, FL

OWNER: Jamee Yocum-Pittman; URL:barkonpark.com; FOUNDED: 2007; OPENED FEATURED STORE: 2009; RENOVATED: 2020; EMPLOYEES: 11 full-time, 3 part-time; AREA: 3,600 square feet total (1,000 square feet for boutique); TOP BRANDS: Oliver Peoples, Kate Spade, Tiffany, Tom Ford, Swarovski; FACEBOOK: Bark5points; INSTAGRAM: barkonpark


amee Yocum-Pittman

Utilizing the backyard for pup play is just one of the ways Jamee Yocum-Pittman has grown her business over the years.

JAMEE YOCUM-PITTMAN was 26 years old when she founded BARK in Jacksonville, FL, with $5,000. She had studied art in college and had only limited retail experience.

“I had no idea how to run a business. I thought, ‘I love people. I really love dogs. And I love shopping and designing,” she says. “I took the leap and opened the boutique.”

Thirteen years later, she has expanded her business to offer grooming, day care and boarding, and has a second location. The BARK brand has grown, as well, to include CBD products, clothing and home accessories.

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Historic + Modern

Located in the Five Points neighborhood in a 140-year-old building, the original BARK combines its historic status with Yocum-Pittman’s personal aesthetic.

“My hardwood floors are original. My walls are original. But I’m a very modern person. I like straight lines and simple colors,” she explains. “Dog products are pretty bright, overall, so walls are white with a touch of gray, and products tell the story.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed Yocum-Pittman to make long-awaited updates throughout her business.

“I had plans to renovate, but I’m so busy here. I couldn’t get a minute of being empty of dogs.”

Also to protect employee health, she halted grooming and day care from Apr. 3 through May 1, and reduced boarding to that of first responders and medical professionals. Shopping was available only via curbside pickup during that time.

She was able — with help from husband Matt Pittman and other family members — to repaint the entire interior, including going from white to black on the boutique ceiling, and to create an artificial grass backdrop behind the check-in check-out desk. Luxury vinyl replaced rubber flooring in grooming. They also installed additional shelving to display, among other items, the store’s branded products.

Matt Pittman modeling BARK T-shirts and candles for humans

Among the BARK branded products available are fun T-shirts (modeled here by Matt Pittman) and candles for humans

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Bark the Brand

With grooming, day care and boarding capacities maxed out at the two locations, Yocum-Pittman looks to continue growing her business through branded products. Customers already trust her to care for their dogs, so why not add BARK to the mix of offerings from Fromm, West Paw, Earth Animal and the like?

“Having my own brand is essential in regards to standing out in the crowd,” she says.

Her popular line of T-shirts and tanks includes sayings such as “Dog Mom AF,” “I Sleep With Dogs” and “Show Me Your Kitties” on front, and BARK on back. Yocum-Pittman keeps costs down by doing designs herself on Canva, using a local screen printer and buying in large quantities.

Among her home accessories are prayer candles featuring different dog breeds as saints. Yocum-Pittman and a local partner design and produce the candles themselves to keep costs down.

BARK functional treats and balms for dogs

BARK functional treats and balms for dogs

The branded products with the most potential for profit are her CBD and treat lines, as they encourage recurring purchases. Two and a half years ago, she introduced CBD chews made by a private-label company in Florida. The 60-count BARK chews contain 240 mg of CBD.

“They sell like crazy. I can’t keep them in stock,” she says.

With a local medical herbalist, Yocum-Pittman created a CBD balm, BARK Paw & Nose Butter. And recently introduced six flavors of single-protein treats.

“This is the first time I’m doing private label treats, for branding and also I like the product itself.”

Her profit margin on these products ranges from 30 to 70 percent, and she plans to make versions of her clothing and home accessories available via wholesale this summer.

Also in the works are dog and cat CBD tinctures, dog shampoos and human lotions.

“From there, we’ll move forward into other things that are helpful and beneficial.”

PHOTO GALLERY (13 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About BARK

1. OUTDOOR SPACE: A full backyard runs the width of BARK, giving day care and boarding pups 2,600 square feet to run and play. Jamee Yocum-Pittman commissioned colorful murals to surround the space, which features artificial turf, play pools, sail shades and commercial-grade misters.

2. 60-SECOND SPOT: Matt Pittman created a commercial that played for a year at the nearby historic theater. Yocum-Pittman says it not only brought in new customers, but also existing customers to new services. “People didn’t realize the back of my store was a boarding and daycare facility even though I had signage outside. With the commercial, people were able to see that.”

3. THE SUITE LIFE: The business has eight boarding suites for overnight guests, each with a wooden door with glass center, tile-and-paint walls, pendant chandelier and framed artwork. Pups sleep on a raised bed.

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4. GROOMER RETENTION: Because of her management style, Yocum-Pittman is able to keep groomers for around five years, higher than industry average. “I let them do their job because they are the professionals. I make sure they have everything they need, and they can always come talk to me, but I am not over their shoulder every minute.”

5. CONGRATS!: Readers have voted BARK “Best in Jax” in Jacksonville Magazine every year since 2009. The store also earned a “Bold City Best” for its grooming in 2019. And let’s not forget this 2019 PETS+ America’s Coolest Stores honorable mention.

Pamela Mitchell is the Editor-in-Chief of PETS+. She works from her home office in Houston, TX, with Ty the Boston Terrier as her assistant.

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