A destination shop for downtown pet owners

Downtown residents, especially those on the north end living close to the river, have a new venue not only for basic dog care, but doggy socializing. City Paws Pet Club, what co-owner Dan Kerkinni describes as “your one-stop shop” for just about everything Fido-related opened its doors on Oct. 2 at 300 S. Second St.

In addition to the more or less usual dog care goods and services — pet merchandise, doggie day care, a dog “hotel” for boarding the family beast and a spa where either Kerkinni’s staff or you yourself can bathe your dog — City Paws has ambitions to create a series of events designed to encourage socializing among both animals and their owners.

“More or less usual” might be understating City Paws level of amenities. The doggie hotel rooms come equipped with soothing, research-tested pooch music, as well as TV screens with calming videos and individual cameras for owners to check on their furry pals online while they’re away.

Created with his wife, Sitania, Dan Kerkinni is confident enough in the City Paws business plan that the couple is already scouting the Uptown area for a second parlor.

“The pet care industry has grown remarkably over the last couple decades,” Dan said. “I believe it was something in the range of $17 billion–$19 billion in 2000. That’s all pet goods and services. To where it’s now something like $70 billion today.

“We see a lot of growth there. And down around this neighborhood, it’s like dog central. Everywhere you look people have dogs.”

The Kerkinnis have even left room in their bright and spacious downtown location for a full-time veterinarian. He said their original plan was to bring a vet in as they opened, but the doggie doc they had in mind was older and decided he wasn’t interested in the kind of full-time commitment they were looking for.

That said, among City Paws’ staff of 18 are the equivalent of dog nurses, capable of detecting basic maladies and recommending further treatment.

“Having a vet on the premises is still a goal of ours,” Dan said. “We’ve even reserved space at this location for that once we find the right person.”

Also on the “next step” agenda: a coffee shop for owners.

Dan made the career shift to dog care after years in corporate finance, working for IBM, Calloway and Supervalu along the way. Sitania had a career in early childhood development out in Chanhassen. The combination of talents, some fatigue with the corporate environment and, it goes without saying, an affinity for dogs, led them to the City Paws concept.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey — who Dan did not know until they started the process of setting up shop — gets an unsolicited shout-out from Dan for advocating for City Paws, partially based, he believes, on the pitch of a street-level social gathering place for owners and pets in the rapidly transforming riverfront area.

“He seemed to really like the idea and was very helpful in getting us through the permitting process and all the other stuff you have to get done to open something like this,” he said.

A full-tilt City Paws grand opening is still in the works, and Kerkinni said he expects to announce a date soon, along with a calendar of events created to bring owners and their pets together.

“Socialization” is mentioned frequently on City Paws’ website, and it refers specifically to dogs who can be dropped off, perhaps by downtown workers, and allowed to play with other dogs for several hours. But like the human social nexus of dog parks, where neighbors meet and catch up on the news of the area, Dan said they very much want to provide a venue for events and services that foster community-building among the hundreds of new residents living in the north end of downtown.