Heir to the growing Kennelwood business his father started back in 1974, Chris Danforth is someone who truly cares about the well-being of man’s best friend. Combined with his business acumen, it’s exactly this attitude that has led Kennelwood to become a leader in the field of dog boarding, training and grooming. Danforth recently shared his recipe for Kennelwood’s success.
LN: How did you get your start in the work world?
CD: I was with Ralston Purina for a number of years on the California marketing team. Then I was a business analyst for Ralston’s Team West.
LN: What gave your father the inspiration to create Kennelwood?
CD: He started with our flagship store at Page and Lindbergh. His original vision was a one-stop shop for all your pet’s needs, from grooming and boarding to vet supplies and veterinarian services. It was originally called Kennelwood Village, with a ‘village’ mentality. He had hoped to grow it to locations across the country. He had been at Ralston Purina for a number of years and was very familiar with the pet industry. He was a visionary, looking ahead to how people would treat their pets, he saw people becoming more involved as pet owners and pet parents. Back then, dog kennels were mom and pop operations, which didn’t always provide the love and care pets ultimately deserved.
LN: How large is the company today?
CD: This year we will do $9.5 million in revenue. We have six locations around the St. Louis area, and in the third and fourth quarter of 2007, we began to offer franchising. We decided our future would be to grow the business across the country taking it full circle, back to my father’s original vision.
LN: What do you think has led to Kennelwood’s great success?
CD: The people who have worked here these 34 years. We have an amazing number of staff who have been here for 10, 15, 20, 25 and even 30 years, and their passion is providing care and excellence to our customers, which has helped us grow and earn the trust of pet owners.
LN: What distinguishes Kennelwood from other trainers and boarders?
CD: One thing is our knowledge. We have been around for 34 years and have helped create the industry as it is today. We were one of the first in the country to have suites for dogs and to offer personalized playtime. We’ve revolutionized the industry and made kennels into places pets want to stay. Also, we have a somewhat unique facility, as far as resources go, with a staff of 15-plus trainers and numerous groomers who are at the top of their profession, and activities directors who offer all sorts of opportunities: grooming, training, the invisible fence, day boarding and day camp.
LN: What are your most popular services?
CD: Traditionally it’s been boarding, letting pets go on vacation when their owners go on vacation. But in the last couple of years, we’ve seen an increase in the need for pets to have a social outlet while owners work, so our day camp has taken off. People drop their pets off for the day and let them enjoy the companionship of other friends. The invisible fence has also been an important part of business for us for the last 20 years.
LN: Do you have a favorite story about pets or their owners you could share?
CD: The stories that make us feel good are when we make a lasting difference in pets’ lives. Occasionally pets have been brought into our grooming service with a small tumor or something the naked eye can’t see. Our trained staff recognize it and have been able to save and extend pets’ lives.
LN: What future plans do you have for Kennelwood?
CD: The franchising is the biggest thing we have undertaken. We’re looking to expand nationally, but focusing in the Midwest region to start.