Pamper your pets at Woof Gang Bakery – Crain’s Cleveland Business

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For many folks, dogs and cats are members of the family, not just furry lodgers to be fed and cleaned up after.

The home of Woof Gang Bakery owners Joe and Natalee Gilk includes a 13-year-old rescue dachshund named Cloe. Years ago, Cloe ruptured a disc in her back, requiring expensive surgery that Joe paid for in part with funds drawn from his 401(k). Although the operation left a scar, Cloe has entered her senior years both happy and healthy.

“I have no regrets,” Gilk said of the expenditure. “I’d do it again in a second.”

Gilk is bringing that impassioned attitude to the first Ohio location of Woof Gang Bakery, offering professional grooming services alongside a selection of healthy dog and cat foods, gourmet baked treats, toys, and pet- pampering accessories. The new store, located at 20075 Chagrin Blvd. in Shaker Heights’ mixed-use Van Aken District, launched with a grand-opening celebration on Dec. 7.

“If you want to come and play with animals, this is the place to be,” said Gilk.

Prior to opening his Woof Gang Bakery franchise, Gilk served as director of operations for a pet-supply store in his native Youngstown. He also spent nearly two decades as a manager for Pet Supplies Plus, overseeing one of the chain’s top five stores in the United States.

As a franchisee for one of 130 Woof Gang Bakery locations so far, Gilk is primed to provide one-stop grooming and supplies to discerning pet lovers — the type who might scan dogfood ingredients before purchasing. Among other high-end brands, Gilk sells Best Breed, a veterinarian-concocted pet nutrition product made in Findlay.

The organic pet treats he stocks are made without fillers, preservatives or artificial colors. Though not exactly suitable for human consumption, they’re not half-bad either, Gilk reported, adding, “They just taste like an oatmeal cookie.”

Customers can buy goat’s milk to aid their fuzzy family members’ digestion, or bathe them in a spa-like atmosphere of doggy indulgence. Gilk suggested such luxurious treatment isn’t found at larger retailers more concerned about number- crunching than clientele.

“I’m a dog lover; everyone here is the same,” he said. “People loving their pets is what it’s all about. I’m going to treat the customer like I’d want to be treated. I want to feel good when I sell someone that bag of treats, that what I’m selling them is good for their pets.”

Enormous demand exists for pet products and services today. The American Pet Products Association counted more than 100 million pet households in the U.S., while the nation’s pet industry is forecast to reach $96 billion in sales by 2020. Dog grooming alone is projected to grow 11% per year through 2023, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Based on Gilk’s conversations with customers, families now are more often caring for multiple pets rather than just one. Modern pet owners, much like the general populace, also have a healthier standard of living, which may have a trickle-down effect for their pets.

“People are more conscious about getting the right food for their dogs,” Gilk said. “They’ve passed that down to their pets from their own lifestyle. Dogs have allergies, so it’s a matter of getting them the right food. That wasn’t the case when I first started.”

Woof Gang Bakery ramped up for holiday business, with Gilk bringing in a manager from a previous job to help run operations.

“This is the place for people to go for the right advice and to be treated like family,” Gilk said. “There’s no dumb questions, you can come to us with anything. We’ll try our best to resolve any problem you have.”

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