That’s a great question. So much so that I feel compelled to write a blog article about it. It’s a question I put in our FAQ section thinking I’d be able to jot down a couple ideas and people would have a great understanding what we’re all about. After about a whole page I realized it’s a much more complex answer because we’ve been around a long time and the business has evolved due to changing times and circumstances. The only thing that has remained rock solid is our original vision of what a pet boarding establishment should be and how to best take care of peoples dogs and cats. I’ll try to be brief.
Location to start with I guess. We are at the airport and easily accessible to anyone heading south out of Edmonton. It wasn’t always like that. We built our first kennel 6 miles east of our present location on 4 acres south of Beaumont. Unfortunately for us, we could not fulfill our business plans there and either had to move, stay as we were, which was only half of what we envisioned, or quit altogether. That’s when we first learned of discretionary zoning and the power of politics. We had our kennel license legally but people around us, some of who lived 2 miles away decided they didn’t want the big bad kennel in the area. I also learned to have a healthy disdain for the county at that time because it seemed they were shutting us down at every turn because we were successful. In the end they did us a favor and now the very same neighbors have much more they have to deal with in their immediate area than we were. After a couple years of floundering around, we discovered our present location which was superior in every way and located in the Nisku industrial park. No one would question building a large kennel there and the county seemed to go out of their way to open all the doors and approve us for the project.
The Starting Point
We started our original kennel south of Beaumont in 1993 after deciding that it would be a great way to make a living from home while maintaining our lifestyle of training and breeding Labrador Retrievers. To be honest I never looked at any other kennels before I built our first one. I had the typical indoor outdoor style with dog doors. Bad idea. A lot of pets couldn’t figure out how to use the doors because they didn’t have them at home. Also very drafty and downright cold on the dogs. We built the first building totally ourselves and it could hold 24 dogs with gravel exercise pens.
Our First Expansion
The next kennel we built was in 1997 and right next to our first building. It held 80 dogs. It was a totally indoor building and a large 60×80 foot arch rib style building. . We would run the dogs outside into exercise pens 3 times a day for their social time. The dogs were very happy with that arrangement and as a result, it’s the same routine we practice to this very day. I also moved from gravel exercise pens to pens with concrete under them because we simply were not happy with the smell and sanitation restrictions. With earth exercise yards, whether they are the proverbial grass pens or gravel or dirt or whatever have you, they get filthy after a time. You can pick up all the solid waste but you can do nothing with the urine and collective packed in debris that collects especially over the winter. We were really happy being able to wash our pens off in the 7 months of the year that we could. However, the ice and snow would build up over the winter and there would be an unholy mess in the spring to clean up once it melted. I remember fighting with those pens in early spring trying to hurry the melting up and get them clean. It would be ugly for a week or so.
We discovered our present location in about the year 2000. I’d driven by this place a thousand times and never gave it a second look because the building was angled from the road and didn’t look that big. One day for some reason I decided to have a look. Well, it was 12 thousand square feet. It had been built by the Alberta government 20 years before as a livestock facility and was well insulated and built to government commercial specs with no money spared. To make a long story short, it was a great location and a totally suitable building to renovate into a kennel. It was a huge leap for us financially but by that time we knew we could do it and we’d never look back.
Heated Outdoor Pens
During the renovation, it was in my plan to design my outdoor pens with floor heat so they could be washed every day, winter and summer. I had learned that in my previous 2 kennels. That was one area where I could not skimp on money. It was a huge investment, almost half of the total renovation cost but it’s been worth every penny in the 18 years since. I could have built a home for what I spent on my exercise pens. I’m repeating a bit but any other kinds of outdoor pens are a struggle to use in the winter when it snows. The snow and ice builds up and it’s just a mess to deal with. Then in the spring everything melts and makes a disgusting mess. The ongoing smell and unsanitary conditions are not good. Think about your back yard in the spring on steroids. We wash ours every day, all year.
Here’s an interesting fact. When we started in the kennel business in 1993, there were no doggie daycares around. That idea unfolded after we started. We actually took some heat for being a ‘social’ kennel back then. Boarding just wasn’t done like that…. oh well, we did and became very popular. Also, municipal regulations seemed stricter then. But, the pet industry flourished, people were getting pets, regulations changed, and these ‘doggie daycares’ started popping up all over, mostly in converted warehouse bays.
I never comment or show disdain for other businesses who are simply trying to make a living also. As a matter of fact, many of them have a totally different market than us and are not in competition. A daycare feeds off a very local market I suspect and because we are located at the Edmonton International Airport, it’s not on everyone’s way to work. I get that. We do a great deal of pet boarding from not only the local Edmonton area including Leduc, but also from all over the province and Northwest Territories. People regularly drive or fly here, and then fly off for business or holidays down south or wherever. We are practically at the airport just across the highway to the east and our clients love that they can drop off their pet and their car and fly away. Or drop off while heading south.
In 1989, there were no ‘Pet Resorts’ that I know of. My uncle used to call his lake lot Club Mead so with his permission, I shared that name and became the first local pet resort around here. Now it seems a ‘Pet Resort’ is somewhat of a brand name rather than a working name, like a ‘Skidoo’ Is to a snowmobile. As a matter of fact, another business named themselves after a slogan I used to use on my website. That’s all ok. There’s much more to being in business than a name.
That’s my next point. Times have changed. Marketing has left the phone books and arrived on peoples mobile devices. That means if you’re not there, you simply don’t exist. At least that’s what some businesses think. I read everyone’s websites as they are public and they all read mine I’m sure. I see what they post and offer and the marketing strategies they use. Some are openly disdainful to others and I find that offensive. We never look down on anyone or their businesses. It’s hard to make living out there and people that compare or try to lift themselves up over someone else in a hurtful manner never seem to last. And I don’t mean to us or anyone in particular. There are actually business out there who deny what they are, call them self something else and somehow want you to believe that. It’s a false narrative. They are pet boarding establishments, dog and cat care for money, the definition of a kennel. Check Wikipedia. Digital marketing is kind of cool, because like a dating app, you can be anybody online.
Same Old Same Old
So, while we’ve kept up on all the digital marketing techniques of today, our business remains the same as always. Excellent pet care for ALL who stay here at the same price. Word of mouth still keeps bringing people back and great personal recommendations keep us going. Google reviews are sort of like that but they’re not the same because no one knows the person writing the review. The care of the pets is what matters. We consider feeding, medications and most other unique needs to be part of that care. That’s why we’ve never charged extra for much of anything.
Our price is very competitive. We can do that by having a strategic attitude about boarding. We stay busy. We have a great facility that we can operate efficiently without sacrificing care. I touched on not charging extra for anything. Here’s why. If we are looking after 100 pets in a day or sometimes many more, their individual needs might change. One might need a bit more attention today or that one takes a bit longer to feed because he’s picky and likes someone to stay while he eats. This one might need insulin. Whatever it is, as long as everyone is properly cared for each and every day, that’s what we set our price on as a whole with a reasonable margin.
It matters to us that we publicly show who we are. You are leaving your family member with us and must trust us.
It’s a huge leap of faith to do that.
We understand that and that’s what sets us apart.