— A row of hooks filled with leashes at The Dog Stop
on Smallman Street recently, signaled that numerous
owners had dropped off pets to hang out. A white board
listed the names of the spaniels, terriers, mixed breeds
and more on site and all barking to welcome visitors —
names like Maya, Bela, Tucker, Otto, Wyatt and Charles.
fellow — kept separate from the others because he’s
not exactly a joiner — was so excited that he made a
flying leap that ended in an ignominious slide down the
loves its dogs and feels guilty about leaving them home
alone all day, bored and sedentary.
is why the co-founders of The Dog Stop decided a couple
of years ago that franchising might be in the future for
the business they started on in August 2009.
franchise idea didn’t come immediately. At first,
Jesse Coslov, 32, and Chris Kane, 37 — who had been
students together at a private high school in the city
— had enough to do just learning about dogs and pet
in packs act differently from those alone at home on the
couch. Confident body language is critical for those
working with them. It’s helpful to take note of each
pooch’s favored style of play. Some play fetch; some
for owners, they worry about what happens to their dogs
during the day and the dogs can’t exactly report back.
"We have people that cry," recalled Kane, who
estimated as many as 6,000 different canines were
registered at an earlier Dog Stop site, and he and
Coslov knew at least half of those by name.
2011, they opened a second location in the South Hills
area and decided they had a business model that others
might buy into. The Dog Stop has a store up front
selling food and accessories, in addition to offering
boarding, grooming and daily animal care services.
many other dog businesses offer all the services that we
do," said Coslov.
are lots of other dog businesses out there, including
those that sell franchises for people who want to offer
doggie day care.
Bow Wow, a Colorado-based franchisor that has several
locations in Pittsburgh, claims to have more than 100
sites in North America. Camp Run-A-Mutt has California
locations and says on its website that it’s expanding
nationwide, while Dogtopia launched in Virginia in 2002
and, according to an August press release about a new
franchise deal in California, wants to get to more than
400 locations in the next several years.
on pets in the U.S. has risen from $41 billion in 2007
to an estimated $59 billion this year, according to data
pulled together by the American Pet Products
spending on pet services such as grooming and boarding
rose from $4.4 billion in 2013 to a projected $4.73
billion this year.
and Coslov have started on the legal steps and paperwork
required for the franchising process.
and even a landlord suggested they talk with Mark Lando,
a franchise consultant from Pittsburgh who was part of
the rise of sneaker retailer Athlete’s Foot years ago
and then the candy store chain Sweets From Heaven. Lando,
63, had also been hearing from people who thought he
should meet the Dog Stop team.
he’s come on board as chief operating officer of Dog
Stop Franchising LLC. Lando’s job is mainly to refine
the franchising push — from advising on the basic
model to working on the required documentation to share
with potential franchisees and to helping identify
first franchises opened this year, with one in Emsworth
and a second in Monroeville, both operated by former
first fliers offering franchises were posted in the
Lando’s suggestions were to offer discounts to
veterans, as well as to reduce some fees and the costs
of equipping new locations.
pet care business may look like an easy thing to get
into, but it’s also a hands-on industry that involves
fur, smelly dogs and cleaning up poop.
can be a challenge, Kane and Coslov said, because it
takes a certain personality and it can be the kind of
job that people don’t keep for the long term.
dogs board with the service, so that means keeping staff
members around every day of the week, every day of the
hoping that going the franchise route will help get
involved owners who can build their own relationships
with customers. Although the two founders cite awards
that the business has won, they’re also aware of
disgruntled comments from some users on Yelp who say
some of the personal touch has been lost as the business
think people do miss Jesse and I," Kane said.
also chewing on ideas for add-on services that could
generate additional revenue and fill a need. One
specifically targets their store that which draws
heavily on Downtown residents. The plan is to set up a
sort of school bus/van pickup service.
also tossing around an idea for a fitness device that
could be attached to the dogs and give their owners data
on how much activity the canines are getting.
members exhausted from playing fetch and grooming dogs
might embrace a proposition for another add-on service:
a cuddle time option that would give a dog some personal
time on the couch with an employee.
part of the job.