Last call with Giselle and Brooklyn Flores

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Crate and Howl, a dog supply store, opened at 16 Portland Street earlier this month. Starting with a pop-up at the Worcester Public Market, this family business promotes healthy and environmentally friendly products for dogs. Specifically, take the health-conscious approach offered to human food and also apply it to the food of man’s best friend. On paper, the owner is Giselle Rivera-Flores, Crate and Howl is actually the brainchild of her 14-year-old daughter, Brooklyn. Last Call sat down with the mother-daughter duo to talk about how they keep it all in the family.

How did it start?

g: A year and a half ago Brooklyn said she wanted to start a dog walking business. My husband and I were a little worried about this – the fact that she had to handle 10 dogs at a time that she didn’t know – it just didn’t seem safe. So we asked her if she had another idea and she said she wanted to open a pet store. Brooklyn’s ultimate goal is to be a vet and cares a lot about what dogs eat and eat.

We started out by renting a space in the Worcester Public Market to see if people were interested in what kind of products we wanted to offer for dogs. It went really well and we just finished a year at the public market, but it was only 96 square feet. We wanted to carry more items like beds and necklaces so we expanded to 16 Portland Street. We’ll see if we keep the market location, but for now we have two.

WORCESTER - Brooklyn, 14, and Evian Flores, 10, recently helped their parents come up with the idea for Crate and Howl, a dog supply store that promotes healthy, eco-friendly products for dogs.

How did you make the leap from a dog walking business to a pet supply business with two locations?

g: It actually seemed easier to me than its walking dogs, when Brooklyn suggested opening a store in the public market area. I am an entrepreneur and I work on branding for clients in the city. So I thought it was a better approach as soon as she came up with it, based on the fact that I have experience taking businesses from idea to reality.

The second store was really on a whim – we saw it was available and in the middle of a neighborhood that is full of dogs so we saw an opportunity to grow. The second location is designed for humans and pets – we wanted to stay away from the congestion of a regular pet store and make it modern with an open, clean, Soho feel.

WORCESTER - Brooklyn, 14, and Evian Flores, 10, recently helped their parents come up with the idea for Crate and Howl, a dog supply store that promotes healthy, eco-friendly products for dogs.

If you favor space and a clean setup, does that mean you can rotate products in and out?

g: Absolutely, we do a lot. Whenever we have new products, we like to alternate them according to the seasons and holidays. We post different treats each month.

What are your criteria for wearing a product?

B: must absolutely be safe for animals and not contain ingredients that could have a long-term harmful effect on them. I just want to make sure the dogs are well looked after. We don’t have any grains or dairy and we make sure to work with cruelty-free companies, so a lot of our products are vegan. We try to make sure they are made by local or regional companies.

g: These are small batch businesses, so you won’t find them at Petsmart or Petco yet. A lot of them are online and work with small retailers like us. Some of these brands are relatively new because healthy foods have only recently been translated into pets by humans. It’s kind of the same with kids – people started to become more aware of what our kids eat, so it spread to our animals. There is a market there that has not been touched by the big business.

When it comes to food, we like to avoid grains, dairy, gluten, soy and wheat and we don’t wear mixed meats either, we stick to things that are 100% sort of meat, not chicken with beef.

We also try to cater for different food styles – like humans, dogs prefer different tastes and textures. These are also real meals – if it says salmon and rice, then it’s just salmon and rice.

What about toys and other items?

B: We make sure that they are no choking hazard and that they are made from recycled materials and plastic, or no plastic at all.

g: We try to keep things that are one piece and high quality, not sown together that can come apart. The other thing is functionality – we work with a sustainable company that makes collapsible bowls that can fit on a keychain. Easy to carry and make sure your dog is always hydrated, even dog backpacks.

WORCESTER - Brooklyn, 14, and Evian Flores, 10, recently helped their parents come up with the idea for Crate and Howl, a dog supply store that promotes healthy, eco-friendly products for dogs.

What prompted you to take this path with a pet store?

g: I am a mother of three children, so a healthy lifestyle is very important to me and I make sure my children eat well. When Brook and I decided to do this, we figured the food we eat as humans should translate into pets as well. There’s this notion around dogs that they have a waste-eliminating stomach, that they can eat anything, and are sort of indestructible, but that’s not true. We have always made sure to feed our dogs well and have learned that certain breeds are at higher risk for certain health issues. So we try to find products that are not only 1) sustainable and 2) healthy, but 3) of general well-being, addressing issues such as anxiety that pets also experience.

We work with a company called Fox and Hound and they are one of our best sellers – they do flea and tick shampoos and sprays, but they have ingredients that are 100 percent natural. Another thing we have is Wolf Spring. It’s a hydration formula and it’s almost like Gatorade for dogs that you can supplement in their water and food. We’re trying to show puppy parents that water doesn’t always do this, that it doesn’t contain electrolytes, and you can still get dehydrated after drinking water.

Where does the name Crate and Howl come from?

g. We were sitting there thinking of names and we are passionate about puns, so Crate and Barrel led to Crate and Howl.

Would you say it is a family project?

g. It all started with Brooklyn and I in the public market shop, but then it got popular and we needed everyone on the bridge. So now it’s myself, my husband and our second child too. Brooklyn is very good at picking out what to transport, Evian (our middle child) takes care of the packaging and inventory, I do marketing and public relations, and my husband does art portraits for customers. I even had the baby here for a few hours.

How did COVID affect the onset?

g: It was hard but we succeeded. We opened the market store in June 2020 and didn’t have a lot of in-person traffic at first, so we are very grateful for online orders. The clients were inspired by Brooklyn and wanted to support her as a young entrepreneur. Customers from the market location came to our smooth opening of the second location.

Have you got pets at home?

B: We have a rabbit.

Something to add ?

g: It is important to support everyone’s ideas, regardless of their age. This is hands-on experience that you won’t get in an MBA.


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