The Pupper Club, a dog day care social club started and operated by partners Eileen Colavita and Garry Reynolds, remained open during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it was considered essential.
Colavita said that during the COVID-19 business closures, “It was very dark and very quiet down here (in Downtown LA). People didn’t know what was going on, so it was quiet.”
The city deemed The Pupper Club a service-oriented business, but Colavita remembers March and April being “dark and solitary.” “(People) were staying home,” she said. “A lot of people left Downtown, even if just temporarily.”
It turned out, according to Colavita, that during the beginning months of the COVID-19 pandemic, a dog day care was little of what people were looking for. Though, she said, “We are back to ‘functioning.’ We were only a year and a half old when the pandemic hit, so we were just catching our stride. We are back to functioning as a new business.”
Colavita and Reynolds opened their first store, on the border of the Historic Core and Fashion District in Downtown, in September 2018. The Pupper Club offers a variety of appointment-only services for dogs under 35 pounds, including packages for day care, off-site boarding and grooming. After working in public relations and marketing for two decades, Colavita felt “burnt out in the world of marketing” and decided to pursue her passion of starting a pet business that was “human centric” and “consumer facing.” Being a dog mom, Colavita said, “I would always think of how I loved being in (a pet) environment and how I would want it to be different, for me, as a pet parent.”
Colavita said The Pupper Club’s vision involves safety.
“I really wanted an experience where safety is the most important thing, and I specifically wanted a small space in the middle of town. I didn’t want an experience where customers are driving their dog to a warehouse or farm. I wanted to create a city experience, for urban residents, where you can walk downstairs, like you’re going to Starbucks, and drop your dog off.”
When business began to slow down in March and April at the store, Colavita began a service of contactless pickup and drop-off for grooming, which makes up a majority of business for The Pupper Club. “In the height of the shutdown,” Colavita said, “we offered complimentary pickup and drop-off (of customer’s dogs) in the Downtown area. We were calling it the Pupper Lift.”
The community responded well to the new-normal business offering, Colavita said. “In this community, it made people feel a lot safer with our safety protocols. We would wait downstairs of their building, take their dog, groom their dog’s hair, hand their dog off, and they knew it was a seamless, contactless process,” she said.
Clover, an intuitive and all-in-one, point-of-sale system for businesses, also contributed to helping The Pupper Club remain contactless. “It’s important to us, especially now, to use a hands-free system. About 80% of our customers check out using Clover.” For customers coming in to drop off their dog for grooming, Clover, as well as being an appointment-only business, has allowed Colavita to maintain business operations, within CDC safety protocol.
Rapid deposit, a feature within the Clover POS that allows funds to be transferred immediately to the business owner’s bank, has been a handy feature for Colvita during these times. “We’re ramped back up to where we were before the pandemic, business-wise,” Colvita said. “But there are times when you need as much available capital to keep business going as quickly as possible. It’s nice to be able to access those sales immediately.”
Colavita and Reynolds have plans of opening another Pupper Club in San Diego at Park 12—The Collection, an apartment community of modern housing and retail, sometime next summer. “Pupper Club San Diego will be twice the size of this one,” Colavita said. “It will still be set up like a boutique. It is in a new construction development in San Diego, and it is where the brand is going, which will be downstairs retail, as a part of these types of apartment complexes.”
To her returning clients, along with other Downtown locals, that have shown support to The Pupper Club, Colavita said, “Thank you for staying with us. We continue to thank our local Downtown community, the people that have stuck with us (and) with Downtown. … Your dog’s happiest place is what we really want to be.”
The Pupper Club
603 S. Los Angeles Street, Los Angeles