Two new Tri-City business owners are banking on canines.
Cheri Shaffer opened Club K9 Pet Spa and Grooming in Kennewick in December, and Elizabeth Christensen opened The Divine Canine in Richland in November.
Both are optimistic pets will pull them through these tough economic times even though they're competing with the big pet specialty chains.
"I'm not really worried, even with the economy the way it is. I did some research before deciding to open Club K9 and discovered this industry is almost recession proof," Shaffer said. "People are always going to treat their pets like their kids. People are always going to pamper their pets."
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Christensen agrees people are willing to pay a little more to care for their animals.
"Anymore, dogs, and cats too, are a part of our family. They're not the backyard pets like they used to be," Christensen said. Adding that with her small shop -- it's about 500 square feet -- "I don't have the overhead of Petco and PetSmart."
Divine Canine carries a variety of premium dog and cat foods, all made without corn, soy or wheat. Plus she has vitamins and some homeopathic remedies like those for itchy skin and ear irritations.
"We're like a health food store for animals," she said.
There also is a freezer full of raw food made from ground meat, eggs, fruits and vegetables.
Raw food mimics how predators feed in the wild, she explained. When they kill, canines and felines eat the entire animal, including whatever their prey had for its last meal.
Christensen has been feeding her three dogs a diet of raw food for years. They moved to the Tri-Cities from Texas in January 2010 when her husband Craig Ingram took a job at Hanford. At that time, the only outlet for raw food was a store in north Richland and they lived in south Richland.
"It was quite a drive for dog food," she said.
When she realized how many of her neighbors had dogs, "I saw a niche I could fill."
So far, the support from dog owners and others in the dog business -- breeders, trainers, the animal rescue organizations -- has been overwhelming, said Christensen, who has worked in retail before but never owned her own store.
Business is brisk at Club K9, too.
"We've had a ton of cats come in lately. Dogs too," she said. "When their dog starts to smell and begins to look bad, it makes their owners feel bad and they want them bathed and spiffed up."
The full treatment at Club K9 will have your dog coming home smelling like blueberries. It includes bath and blow-dry, ears cleaned, teeth brushed, nails trimmed and a blueberry facial wrap.
"The wrap goes around the muzzle and helps clean up any food stains around the mouth and tear stains around the eyes. It makes your dog's mouth smell good and dogs actually seem to like it," Shaffer said.
The price for the pampering runs from $25 for a short-haired Chihuahua to $40 for a long-haired border collie.
Add a haircut and the cost is slightly more, a Yorkshire terrier for example would cost $50.
Cats only get bathed, dried and have their nails trimmed.
"They don't have the patience for spa treatments," said Shaffer, who has pet store experience but also is new to owning business.
Club K9 is in the Hansen Park Fitness Shopping Center, 910 S. Columbia Center Blvd., Kennewick. Hours are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Wednesday, and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday to Saturday. Call 509-396-3527.
Christensen also carries handmade dog treats from two Tri-City businesses, pet toys and beds, collars and leashes.
The Divine Canine is at the corner of Gage Boulevard and Keene Road, across from the Richland Fire Department, 696 Gage Blvd., Richland. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Call 832-837-9712.
You can also have your pet picked up and delivered, for a fee, during business hours.
* Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org