An Eclectic Bunch
The Yuppy Puppy embraces the personalities of its employees to serve
and care for the pets in its Spokane, Wash., neighborhood.
THE YUPPY PUPPY AT A GLANCE
YEAR of the
Location: 9511 N. Newport Hwy Spokane, WA 99218 20 W. Sprague Spokane, WA 99201
Co-owners: Aquila Brown and Gavin Brown
Employees: 15 full time, 8 part time
Years in business: 12 years
Average Square feet: 5,000
Products and services: Natural and holistic pet foods, grooming, self-serve dog
wash, doggie day care, treats and pet supplies, bulk treats, Puppy Bowl, adoption days
BY LIZE TT BOND
Measure a generous dose of extended family, with ties em- bracing pets, their people, staff members, the communi- ty and beyond. Gently fold in equal parts education and
knowledge. Whip in a heaping cup of fun. Season with a bit of
It’s the recipe for success at The Yuppy Puppy in Spokane,
Wash., where the vibe is vibrant, the dialogue is saucy and pets
“I want to foster a feeling of family and fun at The Yuppy Pup-
py,” says Aquila Brown, co-owner of the store with husband Gavin
Brown. “It’s an attitude that works.”
This philosophy touches all in Brown’s sphere, including sup-
pliers and manufacturer representatives.
“I act as if everyone creates product just for us,” she says. “It’s
that family concept.”
The Yuppy Puppy saga commenced in 2006, with self-serve dog
wash facilities and a limited selection of quality yet affordable pet
foods situated in 1,200 square feet of space. Brown’s own yuppy
puppy, DuraMax, who has since retired, served as the venture’s
namesake, four-legged ambassador, store greeter and inspiration.
“When we got Max he suffered allergies, and besides baths
and steroids, he was recommended a prescription diet by his
vet,” she says.
At the time, Brown worked as an assistant at a local veterinary
clinic; however, she began to explore a homemade diet as a solution
to Max’s issues.
“It just made more sense to prevent rather than mitigate the
symptoms, and I began to study alternatives,” she adds.
Positive results prompted Brown’s decision to leave conventional veterinary medicine behind to focus on that prevention and to
share her findings with local pet owners.
The Yuppy Puppy’s opening coincided with economic collapse.
“I think our timing was perfect; we expected measured,
steady growth, and as the economy gradually rebounded, we
were able to add higher-end products along with grooming services,” Brown says. “We grew our options based on what our
clientele could afford.”
A subsequent expansion into an adjacent space doubled the
square footage to 2,400. Full-service grooming and a broadened
selection of holistic and organic pet foods and pet supplies joined
“In November 2014, we moved to an even-larger facility, adding
doggie day care,” Brown says. “The site provides 3,000 square feet
of retail space and 4,600 square feet devoted to day care.”
A second location, opened in February 2018, resides in the oldest
building in downtown Spokane, with the same selections, minus
Constructed in 1890, the new space features exposed beams and
aged brickwork, and the interior design reflects the historic charac-
ter of the building. The scheme is a departure from the larger store,
which Brown describes as fitting her personality to a “T.”
“It’s neon yellow, purple and blue,” Brown says. “It’s loud.”
Throughout this evolution, the concept of The Yuppy Puppy’s
circle of family has prevailed.
GIVING A POOP
Few would dispute that a well-trained staff is key to outstanding
customer service. However, Brown also believes that appreciation
and support of team members are vital ingredients to promoting a
“People don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses,” she says. “If an em-
ployee knows you have their back, that you are their cheerleader
and supporter in an environment that fosters fun, personal growth
is encouraged and, ultimately, longevity.”
Brown is proud of The Yuppy Puppy’s well-trained emissaries
and confident in their ability to educate customers. In this way,
education is ongoing and diverse. Monthly trainings feature nutri-
tional curriculum, role-play and plenty of laughter.
“We strive to provide a huge education, but more than that,
we are all family and friends, and that is pretty impressive,”
Another facet to building solid relationships is the Poop Peso
program. This unique strategy stresses communication. At the
monthly training sessions, 10 blank Poop Peso coupons are handed to each associate. The objective is to pass a Poop Peso, with a
personal message, to fellow employees during the course of the
“For instance, if an employee should forget to take out the trash,
1. The store boasts a lot of supplements.
2. The Yuppy Puppy co-owners Gavin
and Aquila Brown
3. Small animal nail clipping is available.
4. Treats can be purchased in bulk or
one at a time.
IT’S A RETAIL LIFE
What is The Yuppy Puppy best known for?
Aquila Brown: Attitude. We are a very spirited,
almost obnoxious, outgoing group of pet
The biggest challenge for pet retailers
Brown: Internet sales and the convenience of
The biggest challenge in the pet industry
Brown: Misinformation. Pet industry labeling
is shady. People think they are doing the right
thing because we have trained them so well,
but misleading ingredient panels are our
biggest challenge right now.
What trends are you watching right now?
Brown: I walked inside my FedEx driver’s truck
the other day, and a solid 75 percent of the
contents were boxes from online pet product
vendors. It was dismaying, and I found it offensive. Even some of my customers shop online,
and it blows my mind. I’m like, “You walk in
here at least once a week to pick your dog up
at day care and you still order online?”
What do you see for the future?
Brown: More growth. People love their pets,
and why shouldn’t they? They don’t talk
back, which is solid. For the future, I honestly
see America turning back to small business.
I think people are getting sick of the big-box
trend, and I see them returning to their