On Wenatchee Avenue, there lies a haven for your feline and canine companions, an animal spa where your pets can be spoiled beyond their wildest dreams while you shop for toys, treats, and other goodies to satisfy your furry friend.
Every day, pet owners flock to Firehouse Pet Shop as their one-stop-shop for taking care of their pets’ needs.
“We wanted to have everything under one roof just so that pet parents would be able to come in and take care of everything,” Firehouse Pet Shop co-owner Allen Larsen said.
Firehouse Pet Shop was started in January, 2015, when Jennifer and Allen Larsen left their jobs in “corporate America,” and decided to start something of their own.
“There was something lacking,” Allen said. “We wanted to find something that was rewarding, as well as fun, and could fill a need for the community.”
Firehouse Pet Shop offers several services to help take care of all the canine consumers strolling through its doors. On the first floor, a wide array of pet products ranging from “T-Rex feet,” to your commonplace rubber chicken can be found for your pet’s enjoyment. Down a flight of stairs, several stations are setup to polish your own pooch to perfection. Or, if you prefer a more specialized service, full grooms are also available.
“We see about 15 to 25 dogs for full grooming every day,” Allen said. “It’s a lot of fun watching the before-and-after effect, and seeing how proud that dog is of what they look like. They prance around, showing off to mom and dad. The parents’ eyes just widen in excitement.”
Originally, the business was also intended to offer pet treats that were baked at the store, a “barkery,” as Allen called it.
“We were going to produce a lot of dog treats,” Allen said. “Regulations in the state of Washington are extremely challenging… We had to walk away from that and shift gears in that direction.”
The Larsens’ original vision of a “Mom and Pop,” style store shifted gears as well, as the business began to rapidly expand.
“The community has been so incredibly supportive,” Allen said. “I had planned to be the ‘dad,’ helping people out front while my wife makes dog treats in the store … and now we’re sitting at a staff of 14 employees. It almost makes me laugh at how naive we were.”
The quality grooming experience of the store pulls from the pride and passions of the store’s groomers.
“Our groomers just feel like they’ve made a difference,” Allen said. “They’re very proud of what they do.”
Grooming sessions aren’t just for looks, however, both pets and their owners derive health benefits from the process.
“If you have minor allergies to pets, (grooming) can really keep that at bay,” Allen said. “For your dogs, healthy nails are important because the nails can grow too long and they can curl into the paw. … The dog looks better and feels better.”
The pride that the groomers have for their work is echoed by the pride the Larsens hold for their products.
“We don’t have any food or product that we would not make available for our own loved ones,” Allen said. “We won’t put that side-by-side with the products we believe in just to make a buck off the customer. We have found so many alternatives that are much more friendly to the pet’s overall health.”
While the Larsens had many ideas for potential businesses when they first got started, a pet store seemed like an obvious choice for them .
“This just seemed like such an amazing opportunity,” Allen said. “We have been (pet people) all our lives. Right now he have two cats and a dog and now we get to enjoy everyone else’s cats and dogs.”
Allen’s work with animals began well before he began his career as an entrepreneur.
“When I was fifteen, my Eagle Scout project was actually doing something for the local Humane Society up in Juno, Alaska, so that’s where I got my start with animals,” Allen said. “It’s hard not to absolutely love working with animals. Pet parents are great, pets are great and have lots of unconditional love… It’s a fun job and a rewarding job.”
The rewards of running Firehouse Pet Shop are shared by both the Larsens and the community.
“We knew that whatever we wanted to do, we wanted to find a way to give back,” Jennifer said. “We wanted to give back to the humane society and help get animals adopted. We want to be the people who help people who can’t help themselves, and animals can’t help themselves.”
The “pet parents,” contribute to the enjoyment the Larsens get from their work.
“Everyone that comes in, everybody who goes out, everyone who works here, they’re all pet lovers and just very happy people by nature,” Allen said. “Pet parents see the animal as a natural part of the family. They see them as their child in a lot of cases.”
Characteristics of a pet parents stretch beyond just how they see their animals, according to Allen.
“These people just seem to be more calmer, more social,” Allen said. “They’re walking down their sidewalk with their dog and they see another pet person and they form an instant connection. People just seem like they have less stress in their life and a little more love in their life.”
Animals whose owners find their way into the store seem to experience much of the same enjoyment that the Larsens get from working with them.
“They’re grateful,” Allen said. “The dogs come in and they’re so excited and happy.”
Firehouse Pet Shop sees a wide variety of people coming through their doors.
“We have a lot of younger folks will come in here and love their pets to the same degree as an empty nester whose ‘human children’ have flown the coop,” Allen said. “These people genuinely want to give these beautiful creatures love and adoration.”
Some of these animal enthusiasts, like Marlene Davis, drive from as far away as Waterville so their companions can be well taken care of. Davis drives to Firehouse Pet Shop every two months so her shepherd, Princess, can enjoy the grooming experience.
“They do a fantastic job on my shepherd and they’re very good people,” Davis said.
For those who are looking to purchase their first pooch, or those who have been dedicated pet owners for their entire lives, Firehouse Pet Shop is a place for a variety of pet owners to enjoy.
“To be able to come here and have pet conversations with people is phenomenal,” Allen said. “You’ll find that owning a pet bridges all ages and all walks of life.”