This week we have a guest post by local journalist Katie Boehret. Follow Katie on Twitter @kabster728!
Metro Mutts, Capitol Hill’s newest boutique pet supply store
By: Katie Boehret
A visit to Metro Mutts, Capitol Hill’s newest boutique pet supply store, could result in walking out with a penguin-patterned collar, a pack of dog dental floss or a pet-edible Valentine’s Day cookie.
It may also mean buying a stick made of bull penis.
“It’s a hundred percent beef tendon,” employee Kaitlin Utz explains with a straight face as she holds up the foot-long Bully Stick made of cattle reproductive organ. “It takes a while to chew down.”
This is just the kind of distracting, stimulating chew toy that Metro Mutts clientele want, according to Utz. She says working professionals aren’t home much and they have guilty consciences about not spending enough time with their pets.
Pricey pet stores are par for the course in a neighborhood where houses cost a million dollars apiece, a Starbucks hugs the corner and a trendy Matchbox restaurant draws patrons who wait 45 minutes for tables. During the recession in 2010, Americans spent a record amount of more than $55 billion on their pets according to a study by market research firm Packaged Facts.
On a typical Sunday in early February, Utz stands behind a glass display case that contains dog treats made by a Colorado company called Pawsitively Gourmet. At $2.49 each, they’re beautifully decorated and shaped like valentines, hot dogs, pizzas, birthday cakes and snowmen.
“Customers come in with their dogs and ask the dog to tell them which one they want,” Utz says. “These are the cheesecake tartlets.” The 23-year-old points at a small snack that could tempt any human’s sweet tooth. She wears a frumpy James Madison T-shirt, glasses and small pearl earrings. “Our dog food is more expensive, but it has natural ingredients and no filler.”
Eight years ago when Pawticulars, the predecessor to Metro Mutts, opened its doors, Eighth Street Southeast wasn’t a place where people would spend $60 on an automatic cat-feeding dish. Cracked sidewalks flanked the poorly lit street and a homeless man regularly begged for money outside the nearby 7-Eleven.
This past October, the Pawticulars owner decided she wanted more time with her three young children and sold her store and all of its stock to the owners of Metro Mutts. The new store is just one of the 65 pet stores in Washington, D.C., including The Big Bad Woof and Doggie Style.
Roxie Smith, a bubbly 28-year-old who works full time and lives on Capitol Hill, stands on a ladder to refill a display of Happy Hips dog treats.
“I don’t have a baby or a dog like everyone else around here,” Smith calls down with a playful smile. “So this is something I can do—work at a pet store.”
The door swings opened and a young man wearing a ski coat enters with his leashed retriever-chow mix. Dogs are welcome, and the two head to the back of the store where food is stored.
Utz waves to both as they pass her at the counter.
“I remember the dogs better than I remember the people,” she says.