Many profit centers at Wag N’ Wash
A batch of whole-wheat ‘men’ ready to bake.
There may be better biscuit bakers out there, but none who has his audience literally at his feet. Clark Kerndt doesn’t bake full time—some of his work day is spent teaching customers the proper way to wash a dog or selling premium dog food at his Wag N’ Wash store in Eagan, Minnesota. But he’s the only baker in town whose dog can sleep at his feet while he’s rolling out whole-wheat dough and cutting it into gingerbread-style men, or hearts and stars.
Having a mixer, raw ingredients and a confection oven on site serves a greater purpose than just offering homemade dogs treats for sale. The scent of apples and cinnamon wafting from the oven can cover up the smell of a slightly wet dog.
The biscuits are made from human-grade ingredients, but to keep them from molding (not all dogs deserve frequent rewards) they’re baked at 300 degrees for an hour or more. “There are no shortcuts just because it’s for dogs,” Kerndt says.
Ingredients are sometimes hard to source. For instance, he’s gone out of state to find the yogurt frosting for the special-occasion cakes, such as the bone-shaped birthday cake. “Yogurt frosting is safe for dogs,” he says, adding, “safe, but expensive.” Since the biscuits are bone-dry, Kerndt needs to source dry ingredients such as cheese and egg powders, rather than liquids. There are 12 different recipes, including two gluten-free treats. The leftover dough is cut into small pieces to be used as free treats at the counter and in the dog wash area.
The Cheezie Delights are akin to Cheez-Its. “I eat them all the time,” he says.
His kitchen also makes individual turkey and beef meatloaves that don’t contain salt or sugar. Kerndt laughs about the time a large biker-type inquired about the meatloaves for his dog, and then bought one, unwrapped it and took a big bite. This would make a great meatloaf sandwich, Kerndt remembers the man telling him.
The store-baked goodies are a loss leader, he admits, but as every foodservice operator knows, sometimes you need a few amuse-bouches (bite-sized starters from the chef ) to elevate your menu of services.
Clark Kerndt makes whole-wheat biscuits, while his Goldendoodle, Greta, naps at his feet at the Wag N’ Wash in Eagan, Minnesota.
Off the leash
Kerndt admits that owning a dog-food store wasn’t his boyhood dream. Prior to becoming a franchisee, he worked as a pricing manager for a large food company, but got tired of sitting behind a computer, “looking at a box all day.”
He has an MBA from the Carlson School of Management, but wanted the hands-on experience of being an owner/operator. “I didn’t have a great idea on my own,” he says. “I thought this would be a fun way to dip my toes into all the functions (of a business) on a small scale.”
While the bakery may not be profitable, there are several profit centers, including a professional groomer—one of the jobs he’s happy to delegate—four do-it-yourself dog washing stations and premium refrigerated and dry dog food. “The pet business is more of a lifestyle business,” he says, adding the obvious caveat, but you still “don’t want to lose money.”
As the first franchisee for Wag N’ Wash in several years, Kerndt is called upon to be the due diligence provider every franchise expert warns prospective franchisees to call. “I feel like I owe it to the franchise,” he says. So far he’s talked to five prospects and believes two have signed on the dotted line. “I’m a believer in what goes around, comes around,” he says.
Will he open more than one? It all depends, he says, primarily on the brand of lifestyle presented by the first unit.