Lansing Goes to the Dogs

Metropolitan areas across the country are increasingly catering to canines, and Lansing is no exception. Following the lead of dog-friendly cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, Lansing is putting out the red carpet for pups and their owners.

Lansing now boasts the only dog boutique within a 50-mile radius, a locally owned and operated dog apparel line and well-groomed dog parks. A day care for dogs, set to open in early 2009, will soon join the dog-centric developments.

And with the U.S. pet industry likely to surpass $10.5 billion in sales this year, it’s no wonder that local businesses are jumping on the opportunity to serve four-legged consumers.

Old Town Proud

When it comes to canine community members, Old Town businesses could not be more hospitable. Many of the shops allow customers to bring their dogs along, and even those that don’t often offer water bowls at the door.
Local restaurant owners welcome dogs on patios so their owners can dine outside, modeling a way of life that the area shares with what many consider the world’s most dog-friendly city, Paris, France.

Old Town even has its own doggie boutique. Gone 2 the Dogs carries unique items for dogs and their owners. Jana Nicol opened the boutique five years ago when she saw the need for doggie duds.

“I have a loyal customer following but I also have new people coming in daily, which is a really good sign for business,” Nicol says.

The store carries everything from doggie t-shirts and toys to specialty collars and treats. Nicol stocks her shop with stylish dog items—both frivolous and necessary—that owners would usually need to order on the Internet.

Although necessary items such as harnesses, bowls and beds are often available in a neighborhood pet store, trendy dog apparel, designer-inspired toys and gourmet treats are limited to specialty boutiques.

Nicol bends over backwards for her clients and even has a sewing machine in the shop to create custom-made canine couture. She considers the shop a success, and loves the friendly feel of Old Town, where locals share a vision of a more developed, urban Lansing.

“We’re definitely headed that way,” says Nicol. “We’re just a community committed to making this area successful.”

Nicol says Old Town is “unique, trendy, urban and fun,” and hears people compare Old Town to areas in Chicago.

Puppy-Proven Prosperity

Lansing is also home to the founders of All Dogged Up, a home-based and online design company that sells dog-related apparel and art for fun- loving dog enthusiasts.

Barbara Hranilovich, Terri Haas Whittmann and Janet Smith collaborated to create their “casual, comfortable, style that’s doggishly tongue-in-chic.” Hranilovich credits the popularity of dog-related products to people’s feelings about their canine counterparts.
“It’s fun and guilt-free shopping, because dogs are upbeat,” says Hranilovich. “I really think it brings out the fun in everyone.”

With respect to the Lansing area’s dog market, Hranilovich believes “the niche is there and it’s growing.”    

In Lansing’s Downtown, the market is pushing to the south, where Ann Andrews and two colleagues, Angela Brown and Robin Hiar, are opening AnnaBelle’s Doggie Daycare with convenience in mind.

AnnaBelle’s will open in early 2009. It will be open 24 hours a day, which is a unique concept for a pet daycare—most operate during typical nine-to-five business hours. The hours will allow customers to drop off or pick up their dogs based on their personal schedules, taking into consideration the many Lansing professionals who work overtime or have unpredictable scheduling.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for people to own dogs and make sure they are well cared for,” says Andrews.

Andrews says Lansing’s dog-related businesses are growing because pet owners in the area are creating a higher demand for the products and services.

“There are 28,000 people within downtown Lansing and 40 percent of them have dogs,” says Andrews. “That’s a huge potential market.

National market trends show the demand for pet products is no longer limited to necessities. Andrews says part of this trend is due to a psychological shift in pet owners who consider themselves pet parents, not pet owners. They consider their dogs family members, not animals.

“The pet market is booming. It’s a market that only seems to be growing, regardless of the economy,” says Andrews.

The Lansing area is becoming increasingly urban with many professional individuals traveling in and out of the area. Andrews sees Lansing developing into more of a convention center and believes that the addition of unique dog-related businesses will add to the area’s appeal.

“Any interesting business or service will definitely benefit the city as a whole and I think the dog businesses will do just that,” says Andrews.

Off-Leash and On Track

Dog parks and pooper scoopers are also popping up in Mid-Michigan as public parks begin to offer places for dogs to run off-leash, often with designated trails, ponds, fountains and plenty of readily available waste bags.

In East Lansing, the Northern Tail Dog Park opened in the fall of 2007 as the city’s first off-leash dog park. The project was driven by community demand and, according to assistant director, Wendy Wilmers-Longpre, the park is a success.

“Having a comprehensive parks and recreation system is important to the vitality of the community and attractive to people looking into the community,” she says. Two national trends—more people becoming dog owners, and people living in smaller homes or apartments—creates a substantial need for community dog parks.  

Lansing's Howard and Erna Soldan Dog Park is just north of Hawk Island County Park. The 17-acre off-leash park opened in September, 2007, and offers trails, ponds and an open field, as well as lots of other amenities. Park support comes from The Friends of Greater Lansing Dog Parks, a nonprofit organization. The volunteer-run group supports the existing off-leash dog park as well as any new developments with memberships from local dog lovers.

Other industries within the area are recognizing the importance of incorporating pet accommodations. Lansing and East Lansing have a combined 15 hotels that allow patron’s pets to accompany them, as traveling with pets has become a more widespread trend.

Investors in the dog industry likely await more success as their unique business ventures attract the attention of style hounds to the increasingly urban area. Though the region is not yet the leader of the pack in the dog industry, Lansing’s strong muttropolis push is giving the city something to bark about.  

Elizabeth Hoyt is a Capital Gains contributor and can be contacted via email here.  

Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.


Lansing's Howard and Erna Soldan Dog Park

Jana Nicol

Gone to the Dogs

All Dogged Up products

Northern Tail Dog Park

Ann Andrews, Angela Brown and Robin Hiar, with plans for AnnaBelle’s Doggie Daycare

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

Lansing's best dog—the photgrapher's dog, Sydney

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