Wag N’ Wash Founders Use Social Media to Support LGBTQ+ Pride, BLM Movement
Jef Strauss and Dan Remus, founders and co-owners of Wag N' Wash
Jef Strauss and Dan Remus founded Wag N’ Wash together 21 years ago, a natural pet food and grooming franchise that grew to 18 locations nationwide. Life partners for 25 years now, the couple wanted to make sure their business reflected their values and inclusivity from the start.
“With Jef and I both being gay men and starting our business, it was important to us to be champions of our community,” said Remus. “In the pet industry, our customers are such crazy companion pet people. Our companion pets set the example for us—they’re completely unconditional loving beings, and it doesn’t matter what sexual orientation or gender identity you are, they just love you because you’re hopefully a good person. We’ve tried to live that for our business from the beginning.”
This month marks the 50th anniversary of LGBTQ+ Pride traditions, which is celebrated in June to honor the Stonewall riots of 1969. Though COVID-19 has limited celebrations to virtual events this year, Strauss and Remus participated in Pride parade events and festivals in the past in Colorado, where they own five Wag N’ Wash stores.
“We’re really lucky to live in a time and place where we can be who we are and promote that with our team members,” Strauss said. “That is a big reflection on our guests, as well.”
In addition to changing the Wag N’ Wash pawprint logo to rainbow colors on its social media channels in honor of Pride, the brand also took to social media after George Floyd’s death in police custody. Wag N’ Wash posted a photo on its Instagram page on June 4 of a paw print with “Black Lives Matter” written in the middle, with a caption expressing the brand’s stance supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. The post also announced that Wag N’ Wash would make a donation to The Trevor Project, an organization supporting the mental health of Black LGBTQ+ youth. “Protecting our mental health is necessary as we continue the fight for racial equality. Our companion pets love unconditionally and we can too,” the post read.
Wag N' Wash made an initial donation of $500 to The Trevor Project and also set up an ongoing monthly donation to the organization.
“Because our business has allowed us to have a platform and a voice heard in avenues it otherwise would not be broadcasted, we feel it’s our obligation and duty that message is heard through the channels we can broadcast it,” Remus said about the post. “We absolutely believe that silence is complacency—if you’re not talking about Black Lives Matter and injustices happening to other human beings, you’re contributing to it. It’s important we use every platform, including business, to get that message out to affect change.”
Since Pride parades aren’t happening this year, a group usually involved in Pride organized an LGBTQ+ march for Black Lives Matter in Denver that drew hundreds of people who marched to the Capitol. Strauss and Remus donned their masks and participated in the peaceful protest.
“Every night there used to be massive helicopters flying over…now protests are continuing during the daytime and evening peacefully, and community members are giving away pizza and water to protesters,” Strauss said. “It was really heartwarming to see how different parts of the community have come together.”
While Remus admits it may be easier for people in the LGBTQ community to feel welcome at Wag N' Wash since he and Strauss set the example, they ultimately want to create a safe space for all diverse people to feel comfortable at their company.
“We allow those opportunities by living the value of inclusivity, one factor of that being sexual orientation or gender identity. But there are so many other facets to individuality,” Remus said. “We’ve always strived to welcome and encourage and celebrate individuality in team members and franchisees and guests. As long as that individual shares our passion and vision of our business’s mission, there’s an opportunity to succeed in our organization.”
Strauss and Remus have an 8-year-old chocolate lab named Mousse, “spelled like the dessert.” Their Dalmatian, Geni (pictured), who's since passed away, was the inspiration for launching the business in 1999.
“We recognize that customers coming into our stores are a very diverse group of people as well, whether it’s socially, economically, gender identity or sexuality, we all have one thing in common—our love of our companion animals,” Remus said. “I always want to focus our business on being absolutely inclusive to people who love companion animals the way we do.”