Business isn’t booming yet, but entrepreneur and doggie chef Connie Peterson said it could be with a little marketing and maybe a new location.
“It’s hard for people to walk into someone’s residence,” Peterson said. “So I’m thinking about next year getting a booth at a farmer’s market and exploring other retail outlets.”
As it stands now, Peninsula Pup is a dog bakery that Peterson runs out of her condominium in the Peninsula neighborhood in Iowa City, west of Dubuque Street and south of Interstate 80 and just five minutes from a dog park.
She bakes canine snacks in three flavors — peanut butter, sweet potato and Parmesan — packages them in six-ounce bags and displays them on her living room table. She prides herself on using just five ingredients in each treat — wheat or rice flour, rolled oats, dry milk, water and one of the three flavor ingredients.
“That distinguishes us from anything you can get at a store,” Peterson said. “They all have 20-plus ingredients.”
Peninsula Pup, which Peterson launched just three months ago, is open mornings on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. But she’s expanding her hours to catch some of the evening and weekend traffic by opening from 5 to 7 p.m. Fridays and 7:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday.
Peterson said she retired from her job as a graphic designer with the University of Iowa in August and initially thought about starting a business related to “people food.”
“But it was way too complicated,” she said.
Having baked her signature treats for her beloved Maltese Nicki for 17 years, Peterson landed on the notion of a dog bakery as a good post-retirement venture.
“It’s something I chose because I love the treats and I love dogs, and I’m out here by the park and thought, ‘Why not?’” Peterson said.
The Peninsula neighborhood is zoned for both residential and commercial development, making Peterson’s enterprise legal. But, she said, moving outside her home might prove more successful.
“Having it in my personal living space is a little bit intimidating for people,” she said. “It’s hard for people to walk into someone’s residence.”
Peterson has launched a website, created a Facebook page and made it possible to place orders for treats online. But, she said, those avenues have not yielded great returns so far, and she’s planning to become more proactive.
“I get about three customers a week right now,” she said. “Sometimes they will buy more than others.”
All her customers have been walk-ins, Peterson said, and she’s hoping to get her product into stores such as the New Pioneer Co-op.
“I think they have to be confronted with it in a store,” she said. “It’s point of purchase.”
Each six-ounce bag costs $4.50, and Peterson said she believes there is a market in Iowa City for all-natural dog delicacies.
“There is no sugar and no preservatives and they look like peanut butter cookies,” she said. “I totally believe in the product. It’s good.”
Owner: Connie Peterson
Company: Peninsula Pup
Address: 1112 Foster Rd., Iowa City
Phone: (319) 400-4334
Hours: 7:30 to 11 a.m., Wednesday through Saturday; 5 to 7 p.m., Friday