Austin Dog Bakery Aims to Eliminate Ruff Days
By Samantha Reichstein
According to the American Pet Products Association, owners are projected to pay more than $60 billion on their animals this year.
One person helping that statistic is 42-year-old Michelle Taylor, founder and owner of Austin’s dog boutique and bakery, Bentley’s Biscuits & Bones.
Taylor left her marketing director job of 15 years to pursue happiness alongside her yellow Labrador retriever named Bentley.
“Five years ago, I realized that there was more to life than just financial success, and my time was better spent with my dog,” Taylor said. “With a background in cake decorating and two business degrees under my belt, I didn’t want life to pass me by without trying to succeed in this dream of mine.”
This dream morphed into the reality of Bentley’s Biscuits & Bones, a storefront lined with photos of each dog that walks through the doors giddy with excitement. Featuring all-natural homemade cakes and treats along with dog accessories such as collars and bowls, the store acts as homage to Bentley and many of his four-legged friends in the city.
Taylor’s store is one of six dog bakeries in town, though she said what makes her business stand out is how much time and energy she puts into her products everyday.
“I did a lot of research to make sure everything was safe for the dogs because that is my main concern, which meant shipping off all of my recipes to a lab before selling my products,” Taylor said. “I’m actually one of the few dog stores in Austin that makes products in the brick-and-mortar store. The rest are either franchised or use bakeries in other locations.”
Whether it’s birthday cakes or spur-of-the-moment toys, the American Pet Products Association calculated that owners have increased their pet expenditures an average 20 percent in the last five years. One of those owners is 19-year-old Communication Sciences and Disorders sophomore Jennie Levy, who began purchasing products from BarkBox last year.
Founded in 2011, BarkBox delivers monthly treats and toys to their tail-wagging customers. The gifts are personalized, based on a survey that owners fill out explaining their dogs’ likes and dislikes.
“When I was little, we used to have birthday parties for my dog and buy him a toy to celebrate,” Levy said. “As I got older and moved from Houston to Austin, I wanted to give Jack more since I was far away.”
Levy continues the tradition of celebrating her Tibetan terrier’s special day each year with her family. However, the decision to purchase BarkBox was not completely made on her own.
“I love my dog and want to make him happy. There are so many cute and creative things geared towards pets out there that you can’t help but want them all.” Levy said.
Taylor understood that Bentley’s Biscuits & Bones could only thrive in a dog-friendly city, with customers like Levy who see their dogs as more than just a pet. Deciding to open her store in Austin was a decision based on the city’s continued dedication towards animals.
“I am from El Paso, and I would never open a dog bakery there because people do not value dogs in El Paso the way they do here in Austin,” Taylor said. “I opened my store during the recession, and I truly believe the only way I came out successful is because of how much influence dogs have on this city.”
Some of those influences are Austin Pets Alive!, Austin Boxer Rescue and the Bastrop Animal Rescue, three non-profit organizations that Bentley’s Biscuits & Bones has partnered with for adoption events. A donation jar sits on top of the store’s bakery counter, which Taylor personally drops off to various rescue groups once a month. This passion for giving back brought Second in Command Meghan Smith to start working at Bentley’s Biscuits & Bones four years ago.
“Having three rescue dogs of my own, when I found out about Bentley’s Biscuits & Bones, I knew that I wanted to get involved,” Smith said.
Smith works in the store seven days a week, accompanied by Bentley who greets each customer with a slobbery smile and a tail wag. Smith answers all questions about retails items, and helps Taylor make dog-friendly treats, including frozen yogurt and cakes, every morning.
“Our customers know us, trust us and know we care about dogs. Just looking at these photos on our walls, I can name almost every dog and tell you their favorite item,” Smith said. “Customer retention and happiness is key. Plus, our job allows us to see happy dogs all day long.”