We recently paid a visit to one of our vendors, The Dog Bakery by Pets Naturally in Traverse City. Owner Kathy Hyland acquired the Dog Bakery in 2017 when founders Chris and Karry Borolo, who started the operation in 2006, approached her to take over the business. “I was actually in Florida at the time on vacation when I received a call from Chris asking if I had interest. I was definitely interested!” said Kathy. She was already selling high quality, healthy products for pets at Pets Naturally so it was a perfect fit for her.
Kathy has maintained many of the original recipes and treats but also created lots of her own recipes. She introduced grain-free treats, Pup Cups (dog cupcakes), whole decorated cakes, and even Carrot Crunchers, a treat for horses. Kathy and her talented team of decorators design seasonally themed treats and even have a line of wedding treats.
Kathy uses simple, natural ingredients in her treats, including local honey and Great Lakes whitefish, and everything is hand made in small batches. All the decorating is done by hand, and all the packaging as well. She offers over 20 flavors of bulk treats including Oatmeal Softbites, a staff favorite. “The staff eat them when they’re fresh out of the oven!” Along with the bulk biscuits, they have dozens of decorated treats, cakes, cupcakes, birthday treats and shakable meal toppers.
We wanted to know what the most popular product is. According to Kathy, the treats change every season so it’s hard to say what the favorites are but if she had to guess, it would be the Cherry Chews, which we sell at Oryana, along with the Droolin’ Drizzlers and all of the bulk flavors; consumers order them by the pound and they have an online store that generally offers promotions of one type or another. (Oryana also sells Dog Bakery Thin Mints and Whitefish biscuits.)
Currently the Dog Bakery employs 7 staff; during the holidays and busier times they have as many as 10 bakery staff. They ship to the entire US and have over 300 wholesale accounts. It gets busy starting in October for the holidays, and wholesale orders start coming in mid October. It’s also very busy during the summer months as a large portion of their wholesale customers are in boutiques and gift shops.
As for sales, Kathy says they continue to grow. Sales in 2019 was about $350,000 and she made over 150,000 treats that year, all baked with love in small batches!
One thing that can be challenging at times for Kathy is finding and keeping quality employees, a common challenge for most business owners. But she says she’s been fortunate to have stellar employees in the past several years. She is proud of her staff who were deemed ‘essential’ and who worked through the stay-at-home mandate this past spring. Pets Naturally also has the distinction of being awarded one of the Top 50 Businesses to Watch for Michigan Celebrates Small Business 2020.
Kathy loves being in the pet business. (She is a busy woman; she also owns Floor Covering Brokers and Bayview Flooring.) She says all her staff are animal lovers and that it’s rewarding to know that the products she makes and sells make people and pets happy!
What does the future hold for Kathy and the Dog Bakery? She plans to move the entire bakery over to join Pets Naturally on S. Airport Rd. within a year’s time. (It currently resides about 1/8 mile away on the other side of S. Airport Rd.) And of course she is always brainstorming new products.
Visit Pets Naturally at 1117 W South Airport Rd, Ste B, near Thai Kitchen close to the intersection of Garfield Rd.