March 13, 2014 at 8:00 AM
FANWOOD, NJ - K-9 Resorts, Fanwood’s luxury hotel for dogs, is emBARKing a bold growth plan for 2014.
The company, which specializes in overnight boarding (from one night to two months), is adding franchise locations from Boston to Virginia in the near future. Pet owners turn to K-9 when they go on business trips or leisure travel and when they plan home construction projects. The company also offers “doggie daycare” that includes play groups so that pets can expend energy, exercise and socialize in a cage-free environment.
“Dogs are social animals that need exercise and stimulation. Doggie Daycare is the best way to provide both,” says co-founder Jason Parker, who started the business with his older brother, Steven. “It is important for puppies to socialize. People want their dogs to be social. It’s critical for them to start at a young age.”
A Love for Man’s Best Friend
Jason and Steven both loved dogs while growing up, but their parents were not “dog people.” The boys watched their neighbors’ dogs, and in 1999, at the ages of 14 (Steve) and 12 (Jason), started K-9 Guardians Professional Pet Sitting – not knowing at the time that pet care would become their careers. They were simply doing something they enjoyed to earn a few extra dollars.
In 2002, Steven attended a conference in Nashville for pet care professionals and became inspired. The brothers spent years researching and travelling the country to see how to build a luxury hotel for dogs. Using money they earned from dog-sitting business, they purchased a building and custom-designed it to be among the country’s finest pet care facilities. They opened their doors at 43 South Avenue in Fanwood on Jan. 30, 2005, and were immediately successful. Since then, the Parkers have become nationally known pet care experts.
K-9 Resorts treats its guests as VIPs. The suites are designed by Snyder, considered to be the best in the world, and feature premium Kuranda dog beds and a state-of-the-art air purification system. There is an outdoor “pet-safe” courtyard featuring revolutionary artificial turf. The hotel is divided into separate zones to reduce the number of guests (and noise) in any one area. Each suite comes with a color TV tuned to Animal Planet. Like any top notch hotel, it has a fully computerized reservation system and a friendly staff.
There is an entry process. Every animal that comes to K-9 Resorts must have had four shots: Rabies, Distemper Virus, Bordetella, and Canine Influenza. Overnight guests must be 100% friendly towards people. Dogs participating in the daycare program are introduced to other dogs one at a time to determine if they get along with others.
Residents range in size from a 2 ½ lb. Teacup Yorkie to a 225 lb. Newfoundland. Clients are mostly from the 5 mile radius that includes Fanwood, Scotch Plains, Westfield, Berkley Heights, Mountainside, Garwood, Cranford, Clark and other nearby towns. Some of the more well-heeled pooches arrive in limousines.
K-9 Resorts became a franchise corporation in January 2011 and sold its first franchise to a long-time customer two months later. Thus, at age 24, Jason Parker became the youngest franchisor in American business history. Overall, the company has created 11 jobs in Fanwood and 60 system-wide. By the end of the year, Parker plans to have 9 units operating from Boston to Virginia. He expects to have 100 franchisees by 2017.
A Fun and Rewarding Business
“If I get off a bad call, I always walk into a room with happy dogs that are always ready to play,” says Parker, a graduate of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School.
“I grew up in this area. I’m proud to support the local community through fundraising efforts to help the SPPD’s canine unit,” says Parker, who has donated vests, defibulators, and things that are not covered in the police budget. “I’m also proud that Fanwood is our headquarters. The town has been phenomenal.”
Parker explains that the keys to his success have been perseverance, as well as the fact that people are willing to sacrifice for their dogs. Thus, the business is somewhat recession resistant.
“We get inquiries about setting up facilities for cats, and even hamsters and fish, but we are going to stick with what we know best: boarding and dog care,” says Parker, who recently won a fourth consecutive “Best of New Jersey” Award from New Jersey Monthly magazine and has been featured on CNBC and Fox Business.
“Veterinarians, groomers and other pet professionals feel that our state-of-the-art pet care facility meets their discriminating needs,” boasts Parker, who started the business right out of high school. Now he presents at highly attended pet care seminars and attends events such as the International Franchise Association's (IFA) annual conference.
Like most entrepreneurs, the business owner works long hours: weekdays from 8 am until 7 pm. On Saturdays he runs the Fanwood location from 10 am until 1 pm so that he can interact with dogs and customers and stay in touch with day-to-day operations. In his free time, Parker likes to travel to Aruba and play golf. He also is a serious Texas Hold ‘em player.
“I want people to know that K-9 Resorts offers the best pet care possible, and that we have thousands of satisfied customers,” says Parker, who co-chaired Fanny Wood Day for two years. “Treat pets and their owners right, and you have formula for success.”