FARGO — Things are looking up for the pet minders.
Despite the coronavirus’s best attempts, it can’t keep area pet services down for very long. After a financially wobbly couple of months, Fargo area pet-centered companies are seeing pre-pandemic business levels return.
That’s certainly the case at South Bark Doggy Daycare, Grooming and Boarding, 4035 40th Ave. S., where a lot more playful barking can be heard these days.
“Grooming was never affected by this,” Stace Aamodt, South Bark’s owner, said. “That’s pretty much what got us through the downtime of the business.”
Aamodt has three full-time groomers on staff, and they work on up to 25 total dogs per day.
“During this whole pandemic, we were booked out four to five weeks,” he said.
Pet day care was another matter. April and May saw that side of the business drop 50%, Aamodt said.
“Boarding, there was pretty much nothing,” he said. “Nobody was traveling.”
Prior to the pandemic, Aamodt said South Bark would see 80 to 100 dogs per day for day care services, with another 70 to 80 dogs on the boarding side.
Fortunately, the downturn didn’t last as long as it could have.
“Pretty much by Memorial Day everything started to pick up again,” Aamodt said.
Day care numbers are nearly in line with pre-April numbers, he said, with 60 to 70 dogs coming in every day, and boarding has started to pick up again, too.
“We were sold out over the Fourth of July weekend,” Aamodt said.
When fully-staffed, he said he employs 10 full-time and 15 part-time workers. Business dipped low enough at one point that all but seven of his employees were laid off for three weeks.
Aamodt said a Paycheck Protection Program loan allowed him to bring a majority of them back.
“Everything worked out,” he said.
April 1 was South Bark’s seventh year in business, he said, and they were planning a big celebration. Then the coronavirus happened.
These days, however, there is still cause to celebrate.
“We’re pretty busy in all aspects of the business again,” Aamodt said.
Clint Howitz, founder and owner of the Fargo-based online personalized pet supply company dogIDS, can pin down the exact date business started to boom: April 22.
“The fact that people are spending more time at home, and focused more on their pets, they’re also spending more money on their pets as a result,” Howitz said.
January through March was grim, he said, but then volume started to increase by as much as 55% in April. That increase remained steady in May and leveled by June.
“But, June is a slow month in general every year,” Howitz said, “so that’s to be expected.”
The lion’s share of their business is personalized dog collars, he said, but they also offer personalized bowls, beds and leashes. They also carry some cat products.
Most of dogIDS' business comes from large metropolitan areas across the country, he said, with Texas, California and New York being their biggest sale points. The company has no brick-and-mortar location.
The dramatic increase in sales during the pandemic was something of a surprise, and Howitz said even during the grim months he wasn’t too concerned.
“What we’ve noticed is, if there are any economic downturns, the pet industry is usually left alone,” he said. “People usually stayed pretty focused on their dogs.”
Being more present with a pet is the key factor.
“If we’re around our dogs more often,” Howitz said, “we’re obviously going to be thinking about them more. Whereas, if we’re busy, in the game, we tend to forget to get them the things that we think they need.”
WHAT: South Bark Doggy Daycare, Grooming and Boarding
WHERE: 4035 40th Ave. S., Fargo