A new pet supply store is open on 53rd Street, offering food, toys, supplements, boarding and enrichment services for dog and cat owners in the neighborhood.
A Paw Place, 1457 E. 53rd St., opened last Saturday, Sept. 26, moving into the space vacated by Jojayden Handmade, a men’s fashion retailer. (Jojayden did not respond to a request for comment about why it had closed.)
The retail portion of the store is full of every conceivable product a dog or cat owner might need: chew toys, dual leash holders, vitamin supplements, and what owner Becky Morgan describes as "biologically appropriate pet food." In the back is a room that Morgan plans to turn into a community play space.
Around January, Morgan hopes the business will also be able to expand into grooming. That’s on top of services like dog-walking and boarding, which she’s been offering since 2015.
On Thursday morning, one of her employees was taking some dogs to Jackson Bark, the community dog park on a couple of abandoned tennis courts just north of the Jackson Park driving range. Morgan said it’s important that dogs get to spend time with each other.
“We basically focus on enrichment for the dogs,” she said. “It's about socializing the dogs not only with people but with other dogs. It gets them out of the house: they get to play, they get to run.”
Caring for a dog is an acquired skill, requiring knowledge of both breeds and the particular pet in front of you — a hound has different needs than a terrier, but not all hounds are the same.
“If (a dog) is making a lot of eye contact with me or with other people, I know they’re motivated by getting attention and by praise,” said Morgan, who has two dogs of her own. “My hound is all about the nose. He’s super independent, and doesn’t listen to anybody for crap. My German shepherd is a total German shepherd — he’s crazy.”
Morgan, who opened the store last Saturday, Sept. 26, said that the first week has gone better than expected — she’s doing about twice as much in sales as she forecast. “And a lot of people are saying, ‘You know, we didn’t have this much, we didn’t have this many options before,’ ” she said. “That’s really encouraging to hear.”
That said, she’s also taking a longer view of the business, particularly after opening in the middle of a pandemic.
“I can’t expect to open and break even on the first day, you know, so I’ve got a timeline for how long it’s going to take me,” she said. “I’ve spent seven years of my life saving up to open the store, and I tried to build in as much padding as I could to make sure I have time to be successful with it.”