Dogtopia, a national franchise of dog daycares, will be adding a location on Milwaukee’s East Side.
The new dog daycare will go in the 6,400-square-foot commercial building located at 2219 N. Farwell Ave., near the southwest corner of Farwell and North avenues, according to permit applications filed with the city.
Julie Barnes is the owner of the future Dogtopia franchise location. In an interview with BizTimes, Barnes said she plans to open the location in September.
The location will be able to accommodate up to 120 dogs, she said. It will offers services such as daycare, boarding and grooming. There will be three playrooms to separate dogs by size, age and temperament.
She expects to hire around 25 employees, including a salaried position of general manager.
Before opening, Barnes will make an estimated $700,000 worth of tenant improvements. This includes new rubberized flooring for the play area, buildout work for the spa and HVAC system upgrades.
When seeking a suitable location for her business, Barnes said she wanted to be in downtown or close to downtown. She saw it as an underserved area for dog daycare services.
The East Side location aims to serve area residents, workers at the nearby Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital and workers and students at UW-Milwaukee, Barnes said.
“Dogtopia does a great job of working with you in looking at the demographics and understanding if it is the right place for their target customer,” she said. “I was able to find a place that kind of hit the mark.”
Barnes said she grew up in a retail family, with her dad working as a store manager. She started her corporate retail career with Kmart, and also worked at The Gap Inc. before working for approximately 18 years as an executive at Menomonee Falls-based Kohl’s Corp.
“It’s just kind of always been in my blood,” she said of the retail world.
Barnes was one of the 250 Kohl’s employees who were laid off in February 2020 as part of a corporate restructuring.
She said that gave her the opportunity to think about what she wanted to do next in her career. Barnes decided not to return to the corporate world because she wasn’t passionate about the jobs available and wanted to do something on her own.
Barnes looked at franchise opportunities, and decided on Dogtopia for a few reasons. When visiting existing locations, she found a lot of the owners to also be former corporate employees. She also appreciated the franchise’s high level of female ownership.
“When I saw and recognized a lot of people who had come from all types of different backgrounds that had been able to walk into this world of dogs and these beautiful, clean, nice stores, that was just kind of it for me,” Barnes said.
She also was attracted to Dogtopia’s charitable endeavors. This includes a sponsorship program for support dogs for veterans, a program that provides employment opportunities to people with autism and a literacy initiative.
Her two Bernedoodle dogs are also regular customers of the Dogtopia location in Pewaukee.