By Lisa Balschunat
A 19-year concert event merchandiser from California, who has lived in Saratoga Springs since 2016, is now the owner of the first indoor dog park in the city.
Marijo English wanted to give pet owners a much-needed alternative to rainy, snowy or sub-zero walks for their canine pets. The building also provides an opportunities for training, grooming and year-round socialization.
English, owner of Chow Bella, 50 West Ave. in Saratoga Springs, created the business out of necessity for her pet beagle and convenience for herself. She was looking to do something new.
“I was tired of the high stress and traveling. I moved to Saratoga four years ago. I looked into franchises, but none of them are social places,” she said.
“Saratoga is so dog friendly, but there were no groomers or trainers here,” she said. “I wanted to create a place for dogs to run and play without freezing out their paws or having them susceptible to winter road salt.”
Chow Bella opened in late-September. English said the timing is perfect because the COVID-19 puppies—those people adopted or purchased during the onset of the pandemic in March—now need to socialize, she said.
The new establishment employs two full-time groomers, one trainer and one multi-tasker. The space touts 3,000 quare feet of dog park, 500 square feet of puppy park, 2,200 square feet of retail space and 1,000 quare feet reserved for a cafe that will open in the spring.
Services include a grooming facility, self-wash stations and training classes in a space that is a safe, fun, healthy environment for dogs.
The facility can host up to 50 people and their pets, but currently English is servicing only 20 people and their dogs to provide plenty of room for social distancing, and to provide ample time to clean.
“We deep clean every day, and masks are always on for the staff and customers,” she said.
Three memberships tiers have been set: daily pass, $10; monthly, $55 and yearly, $600.
Walk-Ins are welcome, provided there is space and the dog’s temperament is deemed acceptable.
Membership applications include a canine behavioral assessment. Dogs must be current on all vaccines and be free of fleas.
English had the assistance of Steve Hovey and Dennis Crimi, both retired executive who serve on the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) with the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.
Their advice “was invaluable,” English said. “Their expertise pointed me in the right direction time and again throughout the process of setting up the business.”
The Chow Bella retail shop is filled with dog food and treats, apparel, accessories, wellness items, dog park passes and holiday costumes.
Bookings for the dog spa can be made on line at www.chowbella.store.
By Lisa Balschunat