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Woof Gang expands territory in Savannah

Woof Gang Bakery has certainly marked its territory in Savannah.

What started as one store in City Market has grown to four with more on the way for the neighborhood pet store that specializes in quality foods, treats, chews and pet accessories with a personalized touch.

“The whole point of Woof Gang in the beginning was that we knew your dog’s name,” said CEO Paul Allen.

“Our company has grown by just the failures from the big box stores, so when we were building our brand it was built on knowing your dog’s name.”

Allen started the company in Orlando, Florida in 2007 and opened his first corporate owned Savannah location in City Market in 2015 at 202 West St. Julian St. Now with locations on River and Drayton Streets and Bull Street near Wright Square it’s almost impossible not to walk by one of the signature pink and brown WGB façades downtown.

Next month the company will open a new flagship location at 1601 Bull St., followed by another City Market location later this summer and two more possible locations, which are under lease negotiations.

“That’ll be home to everything we do… And we’ll also have a full-time yoga studio within the store,” Allen said of the upcoming flagship store, which will include “doga” classes for people who want to practice yoga with their pooch.

Before coming to the Savannah market, Allen said he looked at other local businesses that have multiple locations such as B&D Burgers and Byrd Cookie Company. Even with the stores’ close proximity, Allen said revenues in Savannah continue to perform on the same upward scale that the company sees overall.

“Savannah was a little different. We saw a couple of the models that were here like B&D Burgers and Byrd Cookies and how they have multiple locations, so there was obviously a need for that. If you look at the person who walks along River (Street) or City Market they’re a totally different person,” he said.

It’s no secret that the pet business is a lucrative one. Nationwide in 2016 people spent $66.75 billion on their pets, according to American Pet Products Association and that number is expected to hit almost $70 billion this year. Across the country in 2016 food sales brought in $28 billion followed by supplies and over the counter medicine with $14.7 billion and veterinary care with $15.95 billion.

For WGB, Allen expects company-wide revenue to be about $47 million this year, with $2.3 million coming from the Savannah market. The company continues to make its own mark on the pet industry in other ways, including recently being named number 11 on Pet Business Magazine’s Top 25 Retailers list in 2016.

Along with the growing revenue and recognition also comes more store openings. This year WGB will celebrate their 10th anniversary and the opening of their 100th store. With locations in 11 states including Nevada, New Jersey and Tennessee, Allen said for now they’re focusing on expanding in states they’re already in with a heavier presence planned for South Carolina and Georgia.

“We’re bringing a lot of corporate positions now to Savannah. By the end of this year we’ll have between 45 and 50 full-time positions in the Savannah market and we’re desperately hiring right now, too,” he said, adding that he’s looking to fill positions for every level including administration, maintenance and retail.

“We didn’t want to bring in people from the outside. We want to hire people locally and bring jobs to the community. Every single person we’ve hired so far, even corporate, have been people from Savannah.”

Aside from pet food and accessories, the company’s grooming business has also grown exponentially since the service started in 2011 and Allen estimates the company will groom about 400,000 dogs this year. At WGB, the grooming model is different from other stores in that it’s a one dog in, one dog out experience.

“You’ll tend to see that we have rock walls and waterfalls, so we try to make it a complete spa experience,” he said.

“In that same area we have dog massage and we’ll have dental treatment and anything else we can do for that spa experience.”

Allen is also looking at adding a doggie day spa concept downtown for city visitors who might be traveling with their dogs. Owners could drop their dogs at WGB for the day while they enjoy the sites of Savannah, instead of leaving the dog in the hotel. The new City Market store will serve as a home-good store selling everything from ironing board covers to pillowcases and sheets and bedding.

“The home goods are really something that expanded and the store will be nothing but home goods. You’ll be able to buy furniture with dog pictures on it to a towel with a dog picture on it,” Allen said.

The flagship store will have a large selection of foods including dehydrated and raw foods with a goal of providing more education for pet owners when it comes to selecting the best food for their pets.

“Quality food doesn’t mean more cost, it means that you’re putting better food into your dog,” he said.

The store also offers a Paw Pals Local Discount Card, which entitles Savannah residents to 20 percent off purchases of consumable products such as pet food, chews, bones and treats.

“It’s a big savings for people. It means someone can buy a very good bag of food for less than super market brands. The Savannah people love the Paw Pals program; I think we’ve got about 5,000 people now on the program,” he said.

They also take time to give back to local pet rescue groups and the Humane Society for Greater Savannah. Often donating thousands of pounds and dollars worth of food to local groups.

“What is it is just huge… We’re fortunate that we’ve got 100 stores and when you have 100 stores you have the buying power and you have the capacity to get back on the level that we’re giving back. For us to give thousands of dollars of food to a rescue is huge for the rescue, but we don’t do it for publicity, my dogs come from those rescues,” he said.

“We’re just fortunate to come into Savannah at the time we did and to have grown the way we did and obviously the people of Savannah have loved us from the beginning and we continue to work on that.”

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