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A Dream Come True

Years of collecting images and ideas led to a Rhode Island store.

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Woof! Woof! Pet Boutique & Biscuit Bar, Bristol, RI

URL: woofwoofboutique.com.; OWNER: Sherri Dechaine; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2015; AREA: 1,200 square feet; EMPLOYEES: 1 full-time,2 part-time; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/woofwoofboutique


SHERRI DECHAINE RECALLS the exact moment she decided to open a pet boutique. “I was on vacation, back in the ’90s, and went into one. I thought, ‘This is something I really, really want to do. Somehow. Someday.’”

Once home, DeChaine began putting together a “dream book” of ideas and images for her future store. She added to it regularly over the years, while working as a veterinary technician and owning a successful pet-sitting and dog-walking business.

The collection served as a starting point for Woof! Woof! Pet Boutique & Biscuit Bar, which DeChaine first opened in Warren, RI, in 2011. It wasn’t until she moved the store to Bristol in 2015, though, that all of her dreams came true.

“I finally had the space I wanted. I was in tears I was so happy. It’s perfect.”

Historical Attraction

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DeChaine says her first two locations in Warren were never quite right: too small, then too open. Those aren’t issues in the current building, a historic home near Bristol Harbor that dates back to 1799. Woof! Woof! takes up the first floor in a series of rooms that act as shops within shops.

“It flows really well, with wide openings in between,” she says, “and customers know exactly where to go.”

In one room, they find boutique items such as toys, pet parent gifts, and collars and leashes. Treats rule in another, thanks to impressive Biscuit Bar, Bone House and Butcher Shop fixtures built by her husband, Brett. In the back, top-quality food has its own room, where freezers and more modern shelving won’t clash with the store’s overall decor.

Original wide-plank wood floors run throughout, with a painter who specializes in historic renovation having added an extra coat of sealant to protect them from pet nails. He also coated the walls with washable pumpkin orange and apple green. Vinyl beadboard adds another level of protection, in part against the inevitable dog drool.

Fixtures are natural birch or painted white. DeChaine takes special care to avoid one material in particular.

“We don’t allow any cardboard displays in our store,” she says. “Everything has to be merchandised to match our design.”

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Thanks to pet-loving landlords, Woof! Woof! also has use of the building’s outdoor space. A covered deck out back serves as the location for Mutt Mingle happy hours, complete with wine for humans and Bowser Beer for pups. DeChaine can even set up tents in the yard for large gatherings. Customers are always welcome to order from the frozen treat menu and chill outside with their dogs on any day when weather allows.

“They can sit on our back deck and cool off after a walk, listen to music from Independence Park on the waterfront,” she says.

How Many Pounds?!

The store’s 10-foot Biscuit Bar draws in customers daily. Sales are by the ounce, and frequent buyers earn a pound of free treats for every 11 pounds purchased.

The bar itself holds 80 pounds of biscuits, with Woof! Woof! selling 180 pounds every two weeks. The treats category, which includes an extensive selection of bakery items, makes up 20 percent of the store’s business.

Treat Truck

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The Woof! Woof! treat truck makes its debut in April. The refitted cargo van features mechanical and electrical upgrades necessary for climate control and refrigeration. Solar panels also help in that effort. It has a custom concession window with canopy and an exterior wrap that uses the store colors, and an interior Brett created that resembles it as well.

“There’s even a horn that barks and plays all kinds of animal sounds,” DeChaine says.

Staff will take the truck to farmers markets, festivals and events. It will be rentable for doggie parties as well, with 15 percent of proceeds going to a charity of the host’s choosing. It will also be used for deliveries when not otherwise occupied.

“It’s the next extension of our business,” she adds.

With such an addition, the store should expect to continue its streak of awards. Rhode Island Monthly has named it the Best Pet Boutique three years running.

PHOTO GALLERY (24 IMAGES)

 

Five Cool Things About Woof! Woof! Pet Boutique & Biscuit Bar

1. SIGN SURPRISE: Look closely at Woof! Woof!’s exterior sign. The artist who handcarved it added a charming surprise for DeChaine: beading around the edge that resembles a studded collar, complete with a ID tag that says “Est 2011.”
2. THAT FACE: Copper the mini English Bulldog serves as store dog. Adopted through Long Island Bulldog Rescue, DeChaine describes him as a happy-go-lucky lovebug. He greets customers and stars in many of the store’s social media posts, and he his likeness appears on the new treat truck.
3. HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Woof! Woof! takes birthday and adoption celebrations quite seriously. It has an entire antique hutch dedicated to ready-made cookies, cakes and beverages, as well as party hats, collars and tutus. Pet parents can even order a custom cake for their pup.
4. FUN FACT: Not only does DeChaine have experience as a vet tech and human nutritionist, she has also worked as a personal trainer and competed as a bodybuilder. She understands how food affects the bodies of both pups and their people, and she draws parallels to help customers understand the importance of high-quality products.
5. SIT PRETTY: Woof! Woof! partners with Tracy Dupuis Photography for seasonal and holiday photo shoots. All types of animals are welcome, and a portion of proceeds benefit local animal rescues.
 


ONLINE EXTRA: Q&A with Sherri DeChaine

Advice for a new store owner?
Don’t get frustrated or give up after the first year. Building a business is hard work, and it can take a while to find your strengths. I consider the first couple of years your growing years, where you are discovering which direction you need to go in.

What do you drive? What do you wish you drove?
I drive a Mini Cooper Roadster, If I could choose any car it would probably be exactly what I drive because it makes me smile every day!

What question do you wish customers would not ask you?
The famous question we get daily looking into our bakery case: “Are these for dogs?”

Tell us about your perfect day.
My perfect day is always when things go smoothly, when our nicest and most appreciative customers come through our doors. An absolute perfect day is when we an older/senior dog comes in after just being adopted. There is nothing more that warms my heart than seeing an older difficult to adopt dog get their forever home and coming in to be fitted for new collars, harnesses and seeing them pick out treats and chews.

What’s the toughest thing you’ve ever had to do professionally?
The shoplifters, sadly. We do get them and I hate dealing with that kind of situation.

If money were no object, I’d do ———— to my store.
I would add a 501c3 rescue to my store, specializing in senior/special needs dogs for adoption. I would love to have a space with gorgeous, comfy kennels and beautiful grounds for them to romp and lounge all day where people can meet them and see all they have to still give even though they are older.

If your store were on fire, what’s the one thing you’d save?
Being insured I would not worry about anything except first my employees and store mascot Cooper. Second would be my custom watercolor paintings of my late store mascot Bronx, I would save them if I could. Everything else can be replaced.

Best vacation ever?
Our best vacation was our wedding in Vermont at the Paw House Inn. My husband, Brett and I wanted a private wedding with just us and our two dogs at the time, so Do-San our senior boxer and Java-Chino our special needs boxer walked us down the aisle. We had a pawprint wedding cake and enjoyed a week in the mountains with our dogs by our side.

Current career goal?
To get the Woof Wagon on the road! We have been planning this doggie treat truck for almost five years, between looking for the right truck, a death in the family, and moving the store twice, we FINALLY have bought one and it’s almost done. It will be ready to hit the streets by spring! WOOF! WOOF!

My hero is …
My mother is my hero. Being an only child she raised me to believe in myself, she was my best friend. She was always there for me, and even now though she’s passed on, I can still feel her helping me and being my guiding angel through my most challenging days.

Current life goal?
To eventually move to a warmer climate but not Florida in about eight to years. I will more than likely open a similar boutique wherever we land since I am doing what I absolutely love!

I am happiest when …
I am surrounded by dogs! I have been that way ever since I was a child, even at a party you could always find me with the dog!

Weekend activity?
My husband and I both love cars! We both drive Minis and attend local Mini club events and participate in charity rides. We also own a very rare classic 1960 Maserati 3500GT so we attend classic car shows for Italian/European cars with that beauty.

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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