Three Dog Bakery drives paw traffic to the loop
Three Dog Bakery
Address: 6323 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, Mo.
Walking time from Olin Library: 20 minutes
When it comes to retail, foot traffic is an essential part of doing business. But at Three Dog Bakery’s new location on the Delmar Loop, owner Kathy Caton is relying on another kind of business: paw traffic.
“I went out to get lunch the other day, and I saw this dog pull its owner right into the door,” Caton said. “I was talking to her and she said, ‘the dog smelled it a block away and just pulled me.’”
While Three Dog Bakery is a national chain, the Delmar Loop location is the second in St. Louis (the other is in Town and Country). Both are owned by Caton, who bought in to the franchise after retiring from a 30-year career in health-care management.
“I decided that I wanted to open my own business, and I wanted it to be something fun with dogs, basically,” Caton said. “So I started looking at franchises, and Three Dog Bakery stood out because their mission is all-natural, and it’s more of a fun experience for the animal in an all-natural way.”
The experience certainly delivers, both for dogs and their owners. Three Dog is bright and colorful, with rows of all-natural dog food, plush squeaky toys, bones and—the star of the show—Three Dog’s line of bakery treats.
Featured in the glowing display case are rows of cupcakes, bones, cannoli, cookies and even “puppermint patties”—all made especially for the store’s four-legged customers. The ingredients are all-natural and nontoxic, including a substitute for chocolate in order to satisfy any pup’s sweet tooth. Featured now are their baseball and Cardinal cookies, as well as hockey-themed cookies: perfect for the season. Caton says they’re currently some of her best-sellers.
Three Dog bakes all the treats in house, courtesy of a trained chef. One of the store’s employees, Zack Morgan, is even doing research on how the store’s ingredients affect dogs’ health. Morgan is a recent Washington University graduate with a background in research, so his extracurricular activities are simply a natural extension of his academic work.
That’s only one of the unique advantages that Caton says Three Dog brings to the Delmar neighborhood. The store also features a self-service dog-washing station.
“We felt like that was a need in the neighborhood,” Caton said. “There are a lot of older apartment buildings and homes that probably make it difficult to wash a dog— especially a bigger dog.”
Dogless students aren’t left out either. Caton said students sometimes come by to buy treats for their family dog before going home for the weekend. Others just visit to pet Caton’s own dogs, who amble around the store greeting customers.
Cruz, a golden retriever, is a good boy by trade. He’s trained as a therapy dog, and it shows in the way he graciously accepts treats from a customer’s hand, as well as any pats you’re willing to give up.
Tanner is a much smaller, but no less important, presence at the bakery. She lost her lower jaw, possibly due to tooth rot or another disease. But she’s still spunky, with her tongue always on display.
Caton’s third dog, Lila, was unavailable, as she is shyer towards men.
All three are rescues, which should come as no surprise. She serves on the board of Five Acres Animal Shelter in St. Charles, Mo., and Three Dog partners with rescue shelters in many of its locations. Caton feels it’s imperative to help out these homeless dogs in any way, which is a key part of her mission at Three Dog. When the Delmar store has its official grand opening on May 21, Five Acres will have rescue dogs available for adoption, and a portion of the store’s proceeds will go towards both Five Acres and Stray Rescue of St. Louis.
So besides all these treats, baths and rescue services, how is that paw traffic doing?
Caton said that the bakery gets steady traffic during the week, but that weekends have been particularly busy. The first customer through the Loop location’s doors was a Great Dane, which Caton said is serendipitous.
Though Three Dog’s space is on the smaller side, Caton said that a Great Dane’s size isn’t a problem. She’ll serve customers both big and small.
“People say, ‘well, who would bring a dog that big into a store?’ Like, why not? There are people of all sizes, why not dogs of all sizes?”