Just before the onset of South Carolina’s flood of the century, the empty retail space of 341 King St. – formerly occupied by Cariloha bamboo goods – began filling with racks of what appeared to be colorful leashes, collars, and harnesses. A simple taped paper sign on the storefront window read NEW PET STORE COMING SOON. After a slightly delayed opening due to weather, Orlando-based pet supply franchise Woof Gang Bakery is finally open for business in the heart of Charleston’s retail district.
The Charleston area has seen several attempts at bringing more non-commercial pet stores to the region. All is Well in West Ashley is a local establishment serving holistic pet foods; Dolittle’s – a local pet supply and grooming business – maintains locations in Mt. Pleasant, West Ashley, and Summerville. Possibly due to higher rent or lack of space, pet stores on the peninsula are not as plentiful. Alpha Dog Omega Cat was a boutique-style, gift-oriented pet shop before it permanently closed its Archdale St. location a few years ago. Before Woof Gang Bakery opened its doors last Thursday morning, only one pet supply location existed on the peninsula: Southern Paws, a specialty boutique on Church St. According to Dani Anne, owner of Southern Paws, business has been steady. The idea for the shop was born when Anne went on a weekend trip to Charleston with her Yorkinese, Moe. She was eager to find a pet shop on the peninsula but found none. Thus, Southern Paws was created. “Charleston is such a dog-friendly city,” she said. “Any pet-related concept, in my opinion, will be a success. We all love our furry friends and treat them as our children.” She explains that local artists and designers partner with her shop and provide her with unique-to-Charleston products. Woof Gang Bakery may not be as unique to the Holy City, but it has its own advantages. “King St. sees lots of tourism which will be most beneficial for Woof Gang Bakery,” said Anne. “I love the concept of a pet bakery here in Charleston. We’ve actually entertained the idea of making our own organic dog treats at Southern Paws.”
With locations spanning from Florida to Kansas, Woof Gang Bakery is not exactly local. Fortunately, each store is uniquely tailored to the locale it serves.
Some of the chain’s 60+ locations feature self-service grooming, doggie daycare, and even vet clinics. According to store manager Angela Castro, Charleston’s store will not offer any of these specialty services. Instead, its focus will be on an array of gourmet baked treats, colorful accessories, toys for both dogs and cats, and community involvement. “Everyone I’ve talked to has been really excited about the fact that we are here,” Castro said. “People seem to be most enthused about the chew station, the treats, and the spa items we carry.” Most of the space is dedicated to a large selection of chew toys including hollowed-out water buffalo horns, rubber toys, and stuffed critters for large and small dogs. A shelving unit in the middle of the space is dedicated strictly to the treat and toy needs of cats.
When asked about the possibility of partaking in community events, Castro said, “I do plan on becoming involved in the community; especially with the efforts rescue groups are making in the area.” This will potentially involve bringing adoptable dogs and cats to Woof Gang’s retail space in hopes of landing them homes faster – an effort seen frequently in Mt. Pleasant, West Ashley and Summerville. In addition, the store hopes to become involved with Yappy Hour on James Island and even plan for a customer loyalty program. “I’m still getting my personnel into training and everything,” Castro said. “But as soon as I get everything set up, I’ll definitely be trying for that.” According to Castro, business has been “brisk” since opening day. Woof Gang Bakery will hopefully continue to serve the downtown residents and tourists well as they search for the hard-to-find goodies their furry friends love.