HOW A LIFELONG ANIMAL ENTHUSIAST IN BAY RIDGE IS REIMAGINING WHAT DAY CARE FOR MAN’S BEST FRIEND CAN OFFER
BY AMANDA McCOY • PHOTOS BY AMANDA DOMENECH
The national pet industry measures its worth in the billions, and it’s growing rapidly. The American Pet Products Association estimates annual pet-related spending rose 10% overall from 2015 to 2016, and is on track to increase again once 2017 figures are tallied. Pet Services like walking, grooming, sitting, training, and boarding were collectively a $5.41 billion sector in 2016, and while the APPA looks at all categories, from pet food to veterinary care, one segment is growing at a notably faster rate than the rest: the “other services” category, which includes grooming, boarding, walking, training, and pet sitting. This surge in demand, coupled with the fact that private, fenced in backyards are an exceptionally rare commodity in the borough, has produced a doggie day care market with a large number of choices, but services that tend to be frustratingly uniform.
This inherent sameness is what Jose Candia, a lifelong dog enthusiast and trainer, set out to change with the Brooklyn Canine Club (BCC). The business, which is scheduled to open doors in Bay Ridge in late winter, is a “sustainable doggie day care,” with a focus on the overall happiness and well being of its pups, and even allows customers the rare ability to come inside and spend the day watching and playing with them.
“At most day cares, you go into a place and drop off your dog and you can’t go into the facility. We went through all the necessary steps to ensure customers can come in and play with their pets,” added the club partner.
Candia, aka the BCC’s “pack leader,” has been nurturing and training dogs since growing up in the Caribbean, a passion that continued into adulthood.
“I’m never without a dog,” he said, gesturing to his four-year old rescued pit bull in the background. “I believe in how therapeutic they are.”
After relocating to the U.S. in the mid ’90s, the New York transplant began a two-decade career in the high-end hospitality industry, but after finding out his wife, Doreen, was pregnant with their first child, the soon to be father began to rethink that volatile field, instead pondering a path that would bring him the most joy. In early fall 2016, a routine visit to a local vet office changed his professional fate.
When Candia noticed a rash on his dog, he called on the expertise of vet and trusted friend, Sal Pernice, D.V.M., of Brooklyn Veterinary Group. During the visit, the two began discussing the idea of a different brand of canine day care, one that utilized plants for allergen reduction, offered non GMO and organic products, and fostered community by welcoming customers in. It would be like an old school club, they thought, but without the pretention and stiff membership fees. The new partners began developing concepts together, and the idea for BCC went from potential to reality in less than one year.
Constructed using reclaimed wood from an early 1800s era barn in Exeter, NY, the club is anchored in green living ideology, but also honors Brooklyn’s industrial roots, and brings the outdoors inside with its living walls vertical gardens of a type proven to reduce stress and improve mental health. “We are excited to incorporate this feature, which is really good for dogs with allergies. It works with the ventilation system and is a much cleaner way to purify the air, ” adding that the vegetation can reduce allergic reactions and improve resistance to cold, flu, and itchiness by hydrating the membranes and tissues of a dog’s respiratory system, including the nose, ears, mouth, and eyes. (A Texas A&M University study found that they can also decrease recovery time after an illness.) Candia handpicked all of the plants, herbs, and fruit (such as strawberries) for the live walls, and everything selected is edible and healthy for dogs. There is, of course, an outdoor area for the animals to play in, too 150 square feet of yard that features K9 grass.
The club offers full and half-day care (“parents” are welcome to join for any part of the stay), walking, bathing, and organic retail products. An avid organic gardener, Candia advocates the importance of using natural products without GMOs and sulfates. From the grooming services to the retail shop, every product found inside the club is devoid of irritants and harsh chemicals.
“The idea was to build a community for people and their dogs to come in and just enjoy the day. It’s like an old-school club, but without the membership. We keep the dogs happy and clean, so they can go home and just relax with their families.”