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Baked to Perfection

The Seattle Barkery began as a doggie treat truck. Thanks to drive and opportunity, owners Dawn and Benjamin Ford have doubled their fleet and now have three brick-and-mortar locations.

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The Seattle Barkery, Seattle, WA

OWNERS: Dawn and Ben Ford; WEBSITE:theseattlebarkery.com; FOUNDED: 2014; OPENED FEATURED STORE: 2020; COMPANY-WIDE EMPLOYEES: 5 full-time, 6 part-time; AREA OF FEATURED STORE: 800 square feet; TOP BRANDS: Oliver Peoples, Kate Spade, Tiffany, Tom Ford, Swarovski; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/theseattlebarkery; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/theseattlebarkery


IN 2008, DAWN Ford began baking treats for her picky Pekingese, Sherman. They were cheesy and grain free, the latter to avoid inflaming his sensitive skin. She soon began gifting the treats through Assembly of Dog, her pet-care business with husband Ben in Seattle, WA.

“The clients would tell me, ‘Well, now my dog won’t eat the ones I buy,’” Dawn recalls. “And Ben would say, ‘Quit giving the treats away! We can charge for them.’”

With that in mind, she started experimenting with different recipes, putting Sherman to work as her official taste tester.

“If he liked a treat, I knew everyone would like it. Our first menu was treats he would not be a little snob about.”

The couple began setting up shop at farmers’ markets and dog parks, then became The Seattle Barkery when their first treat truck hit the road in 2014. Now they have two trucks permanently parked at dog parks, plus three brick-and-mortar locations, including the 2021 PETS+ America’s Coolest winner in downtown Seattle.

Clockwise from top: Cheezy Donuts; The Seattle Barkery in downtown Seattle; Unicorn Cake; and Dawn, Ben and Sherman at their first treat truck.

Thanks, Amazon

While Dawn and Ben recognize the challenge Amazon poses to small businesses, they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to put their first brick-and-mortar shop on its sprawling downtown campus.

“It was a no brainer,” Ben says of the built-in customer base they saw in the many employees living and working there. Rental assistance the company offers to hyper-local, non-competitive retailers also was an incentive.

They opened on the ground floor of the Amazon Nitro North Tower in April of 2020, not knowing what was to come with COVID-19.

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“It was the worst time to open,” Dawn says. “All of Amazon went home to work.”

Ben adds, “We would turn on the lights and wait to see if anyone came in that day. It was a little deflating.” But then seemingly everyone living downtown got a dog who needed to go out. “We became one of the few fun things to do during the pandemic. We were putting smiles on people’s faces during a really dark time.”

The 800-square-foot, glass-front shop has a walk-up window originally intended for Amazon employees stopping by on their way to or from work. It proved fortuitous.

“It was perfect for people who were nervous about coming inside,” Dawn says.

A menu hangs next to the window, with toys dangling below and chews sitting on the counter. Poop bags sit outside for pet parents running low. A “Dogs Always Welcome” sign reminds customers they can bring their best friends inside if they want.

Those who do enter find a bright, whimsical space with colorful decals by artist Kaitlin Robinson. Her mural behind the counter shows a Corgi chasing The Seattle Barkery treat truck. An “R” hangs from his collar for Rufus, the first dog to accompany his person to work at Amazon.

Artificial grass covers one wall, with reclaimed wood shelving holding a selection of toys, bandanas, and pre-packaged treats and chews. Freshly baked treats and ready-made cakes fill the bakery cases. Display cakes show options for custom orders.

Artist Kaitlin Robinson worked Amazon dog Rufus into her mural.

The Seattle Barkery Experience

Dogs visiting any location get treated like very good boys and girls. Samples drop down the Treat Chute that Ben built and land at their paws or in their mouths, the latter with regulars who already know how it works.

They can then enjoy a made-to-order Doggie Sundae served in an edible bowl or snack on a warm Cheezy Donut, among other items on the daily menu.

Those celebrating a birthday, adoptaversary or any milestone get a complimentary party hat and candle to go with their purchase, whether they spend $1.75 on a peanut-banana bone or pick up a $62 custom cake. Outside, a Cutest Pupcake selfie station awaits.

“We take a lot of pride in being a fun destination,” Ben says.

The customer experience has fueled much of The Seattle Barkery’s growth along with its highly Instagramable custom Hound Dog Cake.

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Unicorns & Tennis Balls

Dawn has no formal training as a baker, but her attention to detail and background in interior design show in the artistry of her cakes.

“I learned as I went,” she says. “I’m pretty particular about how things look, so I would refrost a cake 20 times if I had to before giving it to a customer.”

Cakes were simple to start, and then a request came in for a unicorn cake.

“I said, ‘I can try, but I’m not going to promise anything. It turned out pretty cute! It was unicorn madness for a while there. Then I got a ball mold and started making tennis ball cakes.”

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Seven different designs are available, with all cakes coming on a flying disc platter. Pet parents can customize colors, name banners and age toppers, and add on various treats and accessories. Two flavors are available: bacon cheddar and peanut butter banana. All cakes and treats are made with garbanzo and rice flours.

“They are expensive flours, but time and time again, we hear ‘My dog usually gets sick if he eats this kind of stuff.’ But their dog has no reaction. We’re proud to say we’re tummy safe and tummy sensitive.”

Dawn and general manager/lead baker Hayley Barnett take the lead on cakes, while two additional bakers handle treats. All baking happens in a commercial kitchen at their Shoreline shop. Custom cake orders placed online by midnight are filled the following day, with the team on track to reach 5,000 cakes baked, decorated and sold in 2021. That doesn’t include the 1,200 to 1,500 ready-made cakes sold wholesale each year through Independent

Pet Supply to retailers in the Pacific Northwest.

Five Cool Things About The Seattle Barkery

1. TREAT CHUTE!: We first featured Ben’s invention in PETS+ last year, and since then, several others have popped up across the country. He runs a PVC pipe from the top of a counter inside a treat truck or shop, down and outside to doggie height. Canine and human customers alike love getting samples this way! If you borrow this idea, send Ben a thank-you email with a photo so he can see your chute.

2. INSTA SUCCESS: The Seattle Barkery has more than 28,000 followers between its Instagram and Facebook pages. The staff-managed feeds are a mix of custom cakes, chute cuteness, news and giveaways, and shares of customer posts. “We want everyone to feel that their pup is special,” Dawn says.

3. GIVING BACK: Each month, The Seattle Barkery Box features a pupstomer on the front and four of their favorite treats inside, and their rescue gets $1 from each box sold. The August Vito Barkery Box brought in $414 for Must Love Boxers.

4. FRY DADDY: In addition to his roles as inventor and builder, Ben air-fries chicken hearts and feet, duck necks and other body parts in coconut oil fresh daily. They are a big seller across all locations. “Saturday alone, we can go through 400 to 500 chicken hearts.”

5. THE MEOWERY: Dogs definitely rule at The Seattle Barkery, but Dawn and Ben do keep cat toys and catnip bubbles in stock, and cat parents can special order a tuna-based cake finished with cod-skin sprinkles.

PHOTO GALLERY (14 IMAGES)

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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