In times of uncertainty, people look to man’s best friend.
Millions of pets found homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, even earning dogs the nickname pandemic puppies. And similarly, spending on pets trended upward during the pandemic as more households adopted pets that did not own animals previously.
Now as many humans return to in-person work, one business in Des Moines will offer Iowans a plethora of ways to still pamper and spend time with their pandemic pup — all under one roof.
Paws & Pints, a one-stop shop that will provide a destination experience for dogs and owners alike, broke ground on May 20, 2021, at 6218 Willowmere Drive in Des Moines. The 4.5-acre location just south of Water Works Park houses the 33,000-square-foot “ultimate canine retreat.”
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Paws & Pints is set to open by Aug. 22. The facility will be an all-in-one doggy destination with four main businesses:
Human visitors will have access to a full-service bar, food trucks and a live-music stage.
Kyle and Megan Casey of Norwalk didn’t always know they would run a dog utopia.
“I kind of jokingly say that the love for our beloved (dog) Porter changed the trajectory of our lives,” Kyle said. “We were in corporate America and hated it. After 16 years of it, I had to do something. I was going crazy.”
During a road trip with their Bernese mountain dogs Porter and Kora, the Caseys discovered a dog park combined with a bar in Denver.
“We found a dog park bar concept that wasn’t anything super glamorous, but we could quickly tell, ‘Man, this brings things dogs like to do, and their owners have something to do…this place is really onto something,'” Megan said.
A few months later, the couple began working on Paws & Pints. For research, they took their pups to dog-friendly pubs and destinations across the United States, with stops in Kansas City, Denver, Florida, Dallas, Minneapolis and Seattle.
The Caseys believe that Paws & Pints fills a need for dog owners who otherwise crisscross the metro for various services for their pets. Megan said she used to take the couple’s dogs to a dog park in Waukee, a veterinarian in Indianola and a groomer in Ankeny — quite a distance from the couple’s home in Norwalk.
“The thought was, let’s kind of pull ‘doggy Disneyland’ and everything fun for dogs and their owners under one roof, with also all of your less glamorous but necessary dog services,” Megan said.
That’s exactly what the couple went about doing — only to have their progress slowed by the pandemic.
“It’s definitely been a journey of sorts,” Kyle said. “Capital raising is not easy, especially doing it through a worldwide pandemic.”
Paws & Pints is one of the first businesses in the Des Moines area to combine multiple dog-related services with a human bar and social venue under one roof. The Caseys often received a “sort of like a deer in headlights” look from people when they explained their business idea early on, according to Megan, but dog park bars popping up across the country are proving to be popular.
The pair immersed themselves in the dog world over the past few years, learning everything they could about nutrition, grooming products and the best equipment to use.
“From our mentors and from just being dog owners for as long as we have, we knew exactly what experience we wanted to give our fellow dog owners,” Kyle said. “In the hotel and spa side, we had the attention to detail with everything from the brands we have in retail, to how we groom our dogs, to the little things that we do in day care and lodging differently.”
The couple’s beloved Bernese mountain dog Porter did not live to see Paws & Pints’ opening, but the Caseys have made new additions to their family. Bernese mountain dog Kora, 5, is now an older sister to Murphy, a 4-year-old Shar-Pei, and Myers, a 1-year-old Bernese mountain dog.
And of course, Kora, Murphy and Myers were among the first pups to test out the facilities at Paws & Pints.
“Kora likes to bark at everyone as they come in and welcome them to her park,” Megan said.
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As the staff works through final details and prepares for the grand opening, interest in Paws & Pints has only grown.
“People are very excited,” Megan said. “We’ve had founding members asking for months when they could start getting appointments booked.”
More than 3,000 households have registered on the Paws & Pints website to receive info on memberships or services, according to Kyle. Paws & Pints has about 300 founding members who will pay a discounted member rate instead of the standard $49 per month.
The monthly membership includes unlimited use of the dog park, $1 off human drinks and 10% off all other services, including the retail store, grooming and veterinary visits.
Paws & Pints let the 300 founding members in the facility before the official grand opening.
“The feedback’s been good,” Kyle said. “There are challenges with every startup, especially ones that have all the features we have. It’s not easy pulling all this off at one time.”
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And it is tough. The couple doesn’t foresee the entire facility opening in mid-August, as work still needs to be completed on part of the outdoor dog park.
Paws & Pints is still looking to fill available positions, jobs that include employees’ biggest perk: bringing their dogs to work every day.
For the bar, the couple collaborated with Kinship Brewing Co. in Waukee to create a special beer dedicated to their late dog, Porter, called Off the Leash. For every draft sold, $1 will be donated to an animal foundation or rescue.
The bar plans to serve cocktails and 20 craft beers on tap, with a small menu for humans and dogs on the way. The Caseys plan to serve turkey and sweet potatoes among the canine-friendly dishes and Clive-based 5 Borough Bagels for humans from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays.
Though Paws and Pints is a membership-based facility, dogs can gain one-day access for $5. Humans without dogs are also welcome.
For more information about Paws & Pints and its services, visit pawsandpintsdsm.com. Download the Paws & Pints app from the app store to purchase a membership, build a doggy profile with vaccination records and schedule day care or grooming services.
Paws & Pints, 6218 Willowmere Drive, Des Moines. Open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Grace Altenhofen is a news reporter for the Des Moines Register. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @gracealtenhofen.