Bark for Room Service
Trisha Reed, owner of the Barkington Inn & Pet Resort, in Webster, Tex., is part of a new breed of entrepreneur that's catering to doting pet owners. Since her 20-employee pet hotel opened in November 1998, Reed estimates that she has put up some 3,000 dogs and cats, all of which receive a daily change of fresh linens, room service, and a nightly bedtime snack. And Reed, a former pet-hospital manager, claims the Barkington has already surpassed its projected revenues of $26,000 a month. In-season rates for dogs run from $12 a night for a standard room to $25 nightly for luxury suites appointed in Victorian, country, Oriental, or nautical decor. As an added service, lovelorn owners can watch their pets from afar through an Internet hookup.
In another bet on dog owners' spending propensity, Joyce Shulman, cofounder of Rover Group Inc., based in Water Mill, N.Y., is offering natural "performance snacks." Since the company's launch in August 1998, Shulman, a former commercial litigator, says she has sold about 250,000 Rover Bars at pet and health food stores in more than 40 states. The bars, made with such ingredients as flaxseed and brewer's yeast, retail for $1.79. The product line includes not only the original peanut butter - flavored Rover Bar but also a new wheat-free bar.
A third newcomer to the pet luxury market is Sherri Morrelli, who claims that she uses the finest in essential oils and fragrances to create her aromatherapy products for dogs. Morrelli, who started Good Dogma Co., based in Portland, Ore., two years ago, offers three splashy spritzers (in citrus, spice, and floral scents), an Aroma-Remedy candle, and a "pupsicle" blend Aromabath Bar that smells like a Creamsicle. Morrelli, the company's sole employee, has shipped to customers throughout the United States and as far away as Spain and Japan. Last year the company's revenues totaled only $45,000, but Morrelli says that she's considering diversifying with a line of aromatherapy products for cats.