Artists, writers and filmmakers have long recognized the nearly symbiotic relationship between kids and dogs. And while Chris Allen's creativity leans toward business, the bond between fidos and children inspired his family's newest venture in the Meridian Mall.
Allen and his spouse Melissa opened We Love Kids N Dogs
about a month before the start of the holiday season. The unique boutique and gift store features products for kids that encourage creativity and entrepreneurship, and curates a variety of pet products from small businesses not typically found in larger pet stores.
Allen says he got the idea for We Love Kids N Dogs after traveling to pet industry product expos. He and Melissa had taken to the road to promote the Poochie Bowl—a uniquely designed water and food bowl made in Lansing and invented by the Allen family.
"We met the creators of so many unique products, and realized we were all small business owners that didn't have the cache to get into a big box store yet," says Allen. "At that point, we decided we needed to do something to bring all these products back to Lansing."
After his travels, Allen mapped out a concept and took it to the Meridian Mall. A few months later, Allen found himself contacting folks he had met through expos, and bringing in products that include custom doggy coats, organic dog cookies, hand made leashes, ribbons and bows, and other one-of-a-kind pet accessories.
The 1,000-square foot space in the Macy's wing also features kids products and toys rooted in STEM curriculum. The goal, Allen says, is to offer products that can support a child's curiosity and natural play, while encouraging them to build, innovate and create.
"We want to help cultivate that mindset of building and engineering and being creative," says Allen. "That's where we got our start—by inventing a product—so we want to inspire kids to see where they can take things, too."
We Love Kids N Dogs carries about 35 product lines. The Allens staff the store with help from family members. After the holidays, Allen says he plans to create three to five jobs, and assess the possibility of opening a second store in Greater Lansing.
Source: Christopher Allen, Owner, We Love Kids and Dogs
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor