We know we’re not alone in dealing with the struggles that 2020 has presented, but we also know that we’re not going to be able to continue operations if things don’t improve immediately.
Like many of your favorite service businesses (bars, restaurants, and shops), we rely on repeat business to survive. As we’ve mentioned before in order for us to operate at a break-even point (covering payroll, rent, and other basic operating expenses), we have to average about 40 dogs per day. Since reopening after the initial two-week COVID shut-down, we have averaged only 25 dogs per day.
We just came off of the worst December we’ve seen as well as the worst month we’ve had since we took over the business in June of 2018. This doesn’t bode well for our success or survival.
When we purchased the business (formerly known as Stella Ruffington’s), they were averaging about 25-35 dogs per day at their California Avenue location.
We were able to build on that and, prior to closing for relocation, we were averaging 60 per day. This growth made us excited for the move into a bigger and better space.
That strong start to 2019 would come to a screeching halt when we had to close for two months to move the business from California Avenue to Delridge Way. The move itself was simple (this business doesn’t require us to have much by way of furniture, equipment, etc. - pictured below), but the build-out and re-opening were difficult (see the before pictures of the space below). We lost a great deal of our client base with the relocation, we were closed twice as long as we were supposed to have been (of course), and we were way over budget for the construction of the new space.
2019 had taken a tough turn. Upon reopening after the move, we started slowly with about 25 dogs per day but each week and month the numbers were improving. We were excited as we had a busy holiday season and even had to have multiple staff working overnights because there were so many dogs staying with us. January and February 2020 were strong and we were starting to hit the same numbers we had hit in January and February 2019 and we were seeing growth. It looked like 2020 was going to help us recover and get back on track after the rough year 2019 wound up being.
Then… 2020 took a turn. Covid cases began appearing in the United States and, as a result, our numbers immediately took a nosedive in March. When we closed for that initial two-week period, we made the choice to remain closed for a total of two months, knowing that we wouldn’t get enough dogs to come in during that time. It turned out to be a good decision - we were able to pay the lease in full during this period so we had a chance of surviving the pandemic. We reopened with limited hours and no boarding in June and July through November was a period of steady growth. Despite only being able to pay partial rent, we were hopeful we could make it but knew that if we didn’t have a good holiday season we would be in trouble.
We did not, in fact, have a good holiday season. Kevin covered half of the payroll with his paycheck and our savings and we were unable to make rent in December.
This puts us in the horrible position of having to decide if we close and figure out how to manage the debt or if we can get enough dogs in the building to enable us to push forward. We believe the business is viable. We see new dogs every week, but we’re just not getting enough through the doors on a daily basis to make ends meet.
WHAT IS OUR NEXT STEP?
We have a short time to decide if we can move forward - we need to make a choice in mid-January.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
We simply don’t have the resources left to keep subsidizing the business – as much as we’d like to. We’re not looking for donations or surges in package purchasing (though picking up some merch from our Company Store would be helpful in the short term), what we’re looking for are DOGS. The best way to help us survive is to bring in your dogs on a regular basis, keep coming back, and encourage your friends with dogs to do so too. We want to survive this pandemic and be your dog boarding and daycare provider for years to come, but without an immediate increase in attendance, we won’t be open much longer.
As you know, we have a reservation system and we will be using that to anticipate our daily dog headcount, so please use it. We love our drop-in dogs, but at this point, it’s crucial for us to be able to project our capacity and by extension, revenue, in order to make decisions in a timely manner.
And, you may have noticed that we’re no longer promoting package sales. We don’t want to take money for advance services at this point as we will not be able to refund unused package visits should we be forced to close.
We thank you for your support, your business, and most of all – your dogs.