'A really big boom': Calgary businesses catering to pets thrive during pandemic
Isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic has had many Calgarians seeking companionship from cats and dogs.
And now entrepreneurs who were starting their pet supply businesses in 2019 have seen a massive boom more than a year later.
"We saw an increase of 600 per cent on, I believe it was March 15 when it was declared a pandemic," said Jarrod Warkentin, the owner of Fetch and Stay. "We were ready, you know, there were no hiccups."
Warkentin has a storefront but his main focus is on free pet food delivery to customers.
"My grandma, she had two cats," said Warkentin. "She had to take the C-train to go to the pet store, pick up the litter, haul it back and (in the) wintertime too."
The delivery service is so popular he's had to hire more staff to transport dog and cat food to pet owners all over Calgary.
"We now have a full time driver," he said. "We're delivering five days a week, sometimes six days a week, we're looking at hiring another part time driver pretty soon."
Gulnaz Zagidullina is a dog trainer and typically has more than a dozen pooches at her home just east of Calgary. She says many new pet owners struggle to train their dogs properly.
"And all this amount of dogs we got during this pandemic was overwhelming," said Zagidullina. "I think a lot of dogs got this anxiety happening because they never got properly socialized."
She wanted a way for dogs to exercise and expend energy in a healthy way and came up with an idea.
"I always dreamed about having my own facility with a pool so and I got this opportunity to open up," said Zagidullina.
In the summer of 2020 she offered swimming lessons for dogs and rented the space out to dog owners to bring their pets to exercise and cool down in the summer heat.
"This was a great thing for the dogs who couldn't go out there and see everyone and they saw the pool, they start swimming, it's safe, it's fun, it's healthy and owners loved it, dogs loved it so I think that was the perfect timing actually," said Zagidullina.
Paws en Route is a pet transportation service in Toronto and Vancouver and is now opening in Calgary. It offers rides for all kinds of pets. Drivers will take pets on their own or with the owner to the vet, daycare or to socialize with a friend according to CEO and founder Dacia Roehler.
"We saw a really big boom during the pandemic and continue to see it because we're still in the pandemic," said Roehler. "We saw a lot of what I call long haul rides so we were picking pets up from breeders and taking them to their forever homes or booking flights for them to get to their forever homes."
Roehler came up with the idea in 2017 when she struggled to find a ride to the veterinarian for her golden lab Finn. She didn't want any other pet owner to experience that hardship.
"For a short haul it can run depending on where you're going because it could be longer and where you live, but it can run you $25 to about $60 for a ride and so roughly around or slightly cheaper than a taxi," said Roehler.
She wants to expend her business in all major Canadian cities and then south of the border into the U.S.