Dubuque residents Sonny Woltkamp and Victoria Vail always loved animals.
It wasn’t until they met each other, however, that they were capable of turning that passion into a new business.
In late 2018, Woltkamp and Vail were introduced to each other by a mutual friend who recognized their comparable passion for canines.
The duo soon began discussing a vision for a business providing day care for dogs when their owners were away from home. The culmination of that vision — a business called Chloe’s Clubhouse — opened last month at 3135 University Ave. in Dubuque.
Woltkamp sees the business as more than just a place where owners can drop off their dogs.
The facility offers expansive indoor and outdoor play areas. Woltkamp and Vail also provide training to their canine clients.
“Pet owners want to find someone that they can trust,” Woltkamp said. “It’s important that their dogs are taken care of throughout the day, that they are active and that they are getting that socialization with other dogs.”
The opening of Chloe’s Clubhouse is evidence of a broader trend in the tri-states.
Over the past few years, there has been an apparent surge in businesses catering to pets. They range from those offering food and supplies, to those offering services such as day care, boarding and grooming.
Peosta, Iowa, resident Vicky Stelzer spent 25 years as a teacher before shifting toward a new career.
Stelzer opened Adorable Jordy’s Dog Grooming in her home in 2017. The business has continued to grow ever since.
Stelzer now employs four workers, and in addition to grooming services, she offers “day camp for dogs” two days per week. This allows dogs to socialize, remain active and interact with other animals.
Three months ago, Stelzer relocated the operation to a new facility at 7876 Old Highway Road in Centralia. She is not surprised to see more businesses geared toward pets.
“I’ve noticed there are a lot of families with two dogs, or some have three dogs,” Stelzer said. “Millennials, in particular, are choosing to have dogs instead of having children. Those are their companions until they want to settle down and start a family.”
Woltkamp can relate to that mindset.
She and her husband, Nick, now have a young daughter. For many years, however, their young family was rounded out by puppies.
“We had four dogs before we had a child,” Woltkamp said with a laugh. “I think a lot of younger people are doing something similar. They are choosing to have pets before they have kids.”
A LOVE FOR PETS
Many businesses are extending their reach by offering a variety of products and services.
Kellie Droessler opened Wags 2 Wiggles at 1860 Central Ave. in Dubuque in late 2019. The business offers pet supplies ranging from collars and leashes to food and treats.
Droessler believes the internet and social media have made consumers more aware of what they are buying for their pets.
“People have more access to information, and doing research is easier,” she said. “As people learn more about what they are feeding their pets, they pay closer attention. The better food a pet is eating, the longer their life will be.”
Wags 2 Wiggles also offered a self-service pet wash upon opening. It will augment that service by offering professional grooming later this month.
Droessler thinks the service will be a hit among customers.
“Pets have become more than just pets,” she said. “They are viewed as family members.”
The co-owners of Chloe’s Clubhouse share a similar love for their pets.
The moniker for the new business was inspired by one of Woltkamp’s dogs — a 5-year-old Basenji rescue named Chloe.
Vail’s dog frequently spends time at Chloe’s Clubhouse, too.
A Dubuque native, Vail graduated from Iowa State University in 2018 with a degree in animal science. She pondered moving to a bigger city to start her career but realized Dubuque was the right fit.
“Starting this business made me realize I didn’t have to leave to find a job,” she said. “I could stay and create one.”
Today, she shares a mindset with the pet owners that she calls clients.
“I think the mentality of pet ownership is changing,” Vail said. “It’s not as common to have a dog that sleeps in the garage. They’re in your home or in your bed. They are a part of the family.”