BY LIZE TT BOND
It’s a scenario familiar to pet lov- ers everywhere—departing each workday, Dan Remus
and Jef Strauss bid goodbye to
their beloved Dalmatian, Geni.
In the evening, the lonely dog
greeted the men with joyful abandon. The collective angst caused by
this daily routine spurred a decision to
change the direction of their professional
career paths in order to embark on a
canine-inclusive endeavor. Thus,
Wag N’ Wash Natural Food &
Bakery was born.
An elated Geni entered the
workforce in 1999 with the opening of the first location in Colorado Springs, Colo., which featured
a self-serve dog wash and fresh,
homemade dog treats baked on-site.
“We knew the dog wash would not be
busy during weekdays, so a treat bakery was added, allowing our business to remain productive during
the week,” Remus said.
Within the first few months
of opening, the pair began to
investigate the benefits of natural foods.
“We added as much food as we
could fit in the little bit of a store that
we had,” Remus said.
In response to customer demand,
full-service grooming also joined the
Wag N’ Wash offerings.
For several years, the business operated out of the original square footage. However, in
2002, the opportunity arose to
increase the total to 4,200 square
feet. At that time, Wag N’ Wash
transitioned into a full-line pet supply store, providing grooming services,
a dog wash, bakery and deli treats, pet supplies, foods and supplements.
“In 2004, we had an opportunity to
expand to a second location and build
a store from the ground up,” Strauss
said. “We were able to design the
look, product and services exactly
the way we wanted.”
The positive response to the
Wag N’ Wash brand led the en-
trepreneurs to consider a franchise
model, which would allow expansion
into other states.
The first franchise location opened
in Phoenix in 2006. Since then, the
company has added five corporate
stores to the Colorado Springs and
metropolitan Denver areas and 12
franchise locations throughout six
states, with more growth planned.
THE JOURNEY CONTINUES
Today, nutritious foods, full-service grooming, self-wash facilities, pet
supplies and a diverse selection of bakery
and deli treats are the hallmark of each
Wag N’ Wash location. However, its
overall ambiance makes Wag N’
Wash stand out.
“Our biggest differentiator
is the experience offered to our
guests,” Remus said. “There is
nothing secret about what we
do; our goods and services can be
found in some shape or form with
our competitors, but we spotlight an
experience that our guests want to re-
peat. It’s the level of education of
our staff members and the look
and feel of our stores that make
a visit to Wag N’ Wash not only
pleasant, but fun.”
The mouthwatering aroma of
fresh-baked-daily goodies entices
visitors to peruse a delectable array
of treats. More perishable delights are
displayed in a deli-style case.
“Those items include birthday cakes,
brownies, meat loaves, ravioli and pie selections
One Cool Place
From fresh-baked goodies and natural foods to full-service grooming,
Wag N’ Wash has what it takes to keep customers coming back.
Laura Armstrong Leder explored several models when she began investigating
the purchase of a franchise pet supply store. The idea of owning a pet-related
business was not only appealing, but also a natural transition for the Pennsylvania farm owner and animal lover.
“Once I met with Jef and Dan, I knew Wag N’ Wash was the one,” she said.
“The company is not only well organized with regards to franchisee setup, but
it just felt like home.”
So Armstrong Leder sold the farm and opened her own Wag N’ Wash
franchise in September 2016.
“The response from the community has been amazing,” she said. “We have
some big-box pet retailers nearby, but people want to support local business
and have commented on our customer service and the overall atmosphere of
In the first few months after opening, business had surpassed
“Our one groomer is so busy, I am planning to hire another,” she said.
“People like the fact that they can do everything here—wash their dog, pick up
food, purchase bakery treats or have their dog professionally groomed.”
Armstrong Leder credits this convenience, along with word-of-mouth
within the community, outstanding staff members and corporate support, for
the initial success of the venture.
“My staff is excited, and that’s so much fun,” she said. “Also, our customers are great; everyone that comes in here whips out their phone to show off
pictures of their dog. There is always a lot of laughter during the day.”
IT’S A RETAIL LIFE
Wag N’ Wash Natural Food & Bakery
is best known for?
Dan Remus: Our customer
Pet retailers’ greatest challenge today?
Jef Strauss: As the economy has heated up, it’s
increasingly difficult to find appropriate locations.
For the pet industry overall?
JS: Online retailers. But beyond that, it’s also the amount of competition
coming into the market overall. Walk into a hardware or home repair store and
you’ll find collars, leashes and bowls next to lumber. Pet retail is becoming
diluted by other industries that are not traditionally pet related. Customer
service will bring people back into primary pet product stores.
Interesting industry trends?
DR: The American-made trend is bringing injected-mold products back, and
we can compete now with foreign manufacturing. It’s a challenge with guests
when some of the American-made products carry a higher price point. We
explain that we’re paying people a fair wage compared to China or a developing country. Letting people know why one plush toy is more expensive than
another is an educational process.
What do you see for Wag N’ Wash’s future?
JS: Wag N’ Wash will grow to become a national brand as we continue to work
with like-minded franchisees, people who really want to focus on offering a
stellar customer service experience in their own community.
YEAR of the
WAG N’ WASH
AT A GLANCE
Co-founders: Dan Remus and Jef Strauss
Locations: 12 franchisees, five corporate owned
Average square feet: 3,500-5,000
Years in business: 18
Products and services: Full-service grooming, self-serve dog wash, nail trim, supplements, supplies, treats, gourmet pet
deli and bakery, kibble, grain-free kibble, raw, freeze dried/dehydrated, canned foods, adoption days, wash-a-thons
From left: Dan
Remus, Jef Strauss